Friday 5 June 2020

DfT to close driving phone use loophole

The government has stated its intention to bring the law around the use of mobile phones “into the twenty-first century”, to ensure those using handheld phones in any capacity while driving can be successfully prosecuted.

The decision comes after a recent court judgment found that certain activities such as filming or taking photos with a phone while driving did not in and of themselves constitute ‘an interactive communication function’, and so were outside the scope of existing legislation (Transport Operator, September).

At the time, the court clarified that the judgment should not be taken as a “green light for people to make films as they drive”, since this could still be deemed evidence of the separate criminal offences of careless or dangerous driving.

Nonetheless, the Department for Transport (DfT) says it will now update the law to close the “legal loophole” so that any driver caught (for example) taking photos or scrolling through a playlist while behind the wheel can be prosecuted for the offence of using a handheld mobile phone while driving.

The DfT says the impact of using devices that allow “distracting activities” while driving is proven; if a driver looks at their phone for just two seconds while travelling at 30mph, they will travel 100 feet blind, thereby drastically increasing the chance of an accident.

The news follows the publication of a report by the transport select committee recommending the change.

“We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern day life, but we are also committed to making our roads safe,” said the transport secretary Grant Shapps.

“Drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone are hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time – putting people’s lives at risk.”
Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, said: “I welcome the government’s announcement to review the law in this area.

“Technology has moved on since the original offence was introduced and it’s important to ensure any distraction to a driver is kept to an absolute minimum to keep all road users as safe as possible.”

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