Mobile phone laws brought into the 21st century

The Government has moved to make it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving under ‘virtually any circumstance’.

Current law states it is a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving – but a legal loophole has ensured drivers have escaped punishment for other actions such as taking photos.

This is because such actions aren’t seen as ‘interactive communication’, and therefore do not fit the current definition of the offence.

On 19 November, the Government confirmed the law will be ‘brought into the 21st century’ – banning drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.

The new laws will come into effect in 2022 – and mean anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held.

“By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users.

“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.”

The move follows a public consultation in which 81% of respondents supported proposals to strengthen the law and make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted.

Following the public consultation, the Government will revise The Highway Code to explain the new measures.

It will also be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving, making it clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology.

This exemption will cover, for example, places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.

Drivers will still be able to continue using a device ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle.

The Government says they must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.


22 November 2021