Drivers will soon be able to use a handheld mobile phone for any purpose such as taking photos under new proposals by the Department for Transport (DfT). It is already a criminal offence to use a phone to make calls or text messages while behind the wheel.
However, road users have escaped punishment due to a simple loophole where actions are not considered “interactive communication” and therefore does not fit the current offence.
The DfT has confirmed that a consultation has been launched on proposals to bring the law into line with modern technology.
They say legislation changes will even target anyone who is caught playing games behind the wheel or scrolling through a music playlist.
However, ministers looking into the changes have rejected further calls to ban hands-free tools on cars.
Mobile phone laws will be strengthened under new measures
Drivers will be fined for touching their phones for anything while driving
This means drivers will still be able to use vital safety devices such as sat-navs as long as they are safely secured.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere has warned that using a phone behind the wheel was “distracting” and “dangerous”.
She claimed that drivers had been able to “escape punishment” with the changes ensuring that offenders faced the consequences.
She said: “Our roads are some of the safest in the world, but we want to make sure they’re safer still by bringing the law into the 21st century.
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“That’s why we’re looking to strengthen the law to make using a hand-held phone while driving illegal in a wider range of circumstances.
“It’s distracting and dangerous and for too long risky drivers have been able to escape punishment, but this update will mean those doing the wrong thing will face the full force of the law.”
Under the new legislation, police officers will be able to take immediate action if they see a driver holding their phone behind the wheel.
Penalties will remain the same as those issued to current phone offenders with drivers issued a £200 fine and up to six penalty points on a driving licence.
National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said forces would take “robust action” against anyone breaking the rules.
He said: “Using a mobile phone while driving is incredibly dangerous and being distracted at the wheel can change lives forever.
“Police will take robust action against those using a hand-held mobile phone illegally and proposals to make the law clearer are welcome.”
The government has revealed it is also reviewing road traffic police and wide traffic enforcement.
A previous loophole meant that only drivers communicating could be punished
This will look at how effective road policing is and where improvements could be made to catch out offenders.
New research from the DfT and the University of Leeds has found that 662 mobile phone interactions were observed over 765 trips.
This shockingly revealed that drives used their phones on 86.5 percent of journeys on average.
Just 38 of these interactions were considered to be completely hands-free despite the serious safety risks.