The Department for Transport (DfT) recently ran a consultation looking at closing a loophole in mobile phone use behind the wheel, with 81% of those who responded, supporting the change. The new law will come into force on 25th March 2022 and will result in using a hand held mobile phone behind the wheel being illegal in virtually any circumstance, including while stationary.
Drivers will still be able to use hand’s free devices, such as sat-navs, as long as they are securely fastened.
Why is change needed?
The mobile phone has come a long way since the creation of the mobile phone offence. The law currently states that the handheld mobile phone offence is only triggered when a driver is holding a mobile phone in their hand and communicating with another person through voice call, texting, email or communicating with the internet.
It is equally dangerous for a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone to search for music stored on the phone or to record video footage while driving. Currently, these “standalone” functions can lead to enforcement action by the police but not under the handheld mobile phone offence.
The police may choose to take action under the offence of “not in proper control” of the vehicle. The penalty for “not in proper control” offence is not as tough as the dedicated mobile phone offence. This weakens the tough stance taken by the Government on penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Exemptions to the new law
There is an exemption to this law, for drivers using a mobile phone to make contactless payments at appropriate locations, while stationary, for example at drive through food outlets.
Drivers who are caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on their licence.
By strengthening the law to make using a hand-held phone while driving illegal, in a wider range of circumstances will ensure police can take immediate action if they see a driver using a phone at the wheel, bolstering current police powers to tackle this behaviour.