Tougher penalties for mobile phone use while driving come into force

Drivers will face fines of up to £1000 and could receive up to six penalty points if they're caught using their phones from today – and not just if they're using them to make calls...

DfT to crack down on mobile phone use

Drivers caught using their mobile phones to play games, take photos or videos, or scroll through music playlists while driving will now face a fine of up to £1000 and up to six penalty points on their license.

Laws closing a loophole allowing drivers to use their handheld phones in certain situations have now come into force, with Transport Secretary Grant Schapps saying the Government would take a "zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel."

Under previous rules, drivers were banned from texting and making phone calls (apart from in an emergency), but a loophole allowed some to escape conviction because what they were doing with their phones wasn't explicitly covered by the law.

Mobile phone at the wheel

Drivers will still be able to use their phone ‘hands-free’, such as when following a sat nav app from a phone that's secured in a cradle, but the police will be able to charge the driver if they are deemed to not be in control of their vehicle. This relates to driving in such a position that causes a risk to others, particularly in terms of reaction time and view of the road. Motorists can also use apps such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which switch many of your phone's functions over to your car's infotainment screen.

A small exemption will be made for contactless payments, such as at toll booths or drive-through restaurants. But this will only apply if the payment is being made via a card reader, and it will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving. 

The Highway Code has been brought up-to-date and adjusted to explain the new measures, and also makes clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in traffic jams is illegal. 

The move comes after a 12-week public consultation last year found that 81% of drivers supported a change to the law.

BMW 3 Series interior with mobile phone

Edmund King, president of breakdown provider AA, said: "This is a much needed toughening of the rules to help make our roads safer. Those that believe that they can still play with their phone because it’s in a cradle must think again – they leave themselves open to prosecution for either careless or dangerous driving."

Simon Williams, spokesman for road safety at the RAC, commented that: “We strongly welcome the Government’s strengthening of the law on handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel. As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.”

Research conducted by the RAC earlier this year also found that one-in-10 younger drivers have admitted to taking a photo or video while driving, and 6% said they’ve played a game. 

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