Thursday 20 January 2022

Crackdown coming on driver phone use

New measures set to be introduced by the government will make prosecutions against drivers using handheld mobile phones at the wheel easier.

While texting or making a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a handheld device while driving is already illegal, laws set to be introduced next year will go further, banning drivers from activities such as photographing or filming, playing games or navigating playlists with their phones.

Anyone caught using a phone while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said. It cites a public consultation which found that 81 per cent of people supported the move.

Drivers will still be able to use devices ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as satnavs, if secured in a cradle, says DfT; but they can still be charged with an offence if they are found not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

The Highway Code will also be revised to explain the changes, and also to include more precise language around the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving – in order to clarify that using a phone while waiting at traffic lights or in motorway queues is illegal, except in very limited circumstances.

An exemption to the new law will cover drivers making contactless payments with their mobile phones – for example, at drive-through restaurants or road tolls – where transactions are completed with a card reader.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of the road safety charity Brake, commented: “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a handheld phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed.

“This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes – we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention.”

The transport secretary Grant Shapps 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.”

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