Government moves to strengthen mobile phone laws

The Government has set its sights on closing a legal loophole and making activities like taking photos and playing games on hand-held mobile phones illegal while driving.

At present, it is a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving, but not for other actions such as taking photos – despite the obvious dangers.

The Government says drivers have escaped punishment due to a legal loophole where such actions aren’t seen as ‘interactive communication’, and therefore do not fit the current definition of the offence.

Following a review, a consultation has been launched to ‘bring the law into line with modern technology’ – meaning drivers caught taking photos, playing games or scrolling through a playlist behind the wheel will be breaking the law.

Under the new plans, an exemption will apply to contactless payments, if a vehicle is stationary, and if goods or services – such as a takeaway meal – are delivered immediately.

Ministers have also rejected calls to go further by banning the use of hands-free functions – drivers will still be able to continue using devices ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav secured in a cradle.

Baroness Vere, roads minister, 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.

“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.”

LRSC campaign highlights mobile phone issue
In September, the London Road Safety Council relaunched a campaign to highlight how the mobile phone obsession is putting people in danger as they use them on the move.

The Heads Up, Phones Down! campaign comprises three new social media films, showing how everyday folk can allow their phone fixation to lead them into disaster on London’s roads – whether they are walking, cycling, driving or motorcycling.

The videos follow the journeys of typical Londoners and show how being absorbed in distracting on-line conversations and internet surfing causes them to come a cropper.

Since relaunching, the videos have been viewed 2.1 million times.

19 October 2020