Drivers using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, for any purpose, will face penalties after the UK government announced a strengthening of existing laws on road safety on Friday.
It is already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving. From next year, laws will go further to ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.
This will mean anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a 200-pound fixed penalty notice and 6 penalty points on their licence, half the number that leads to licence revocation in the country.
“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,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer,” he said.
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.
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.
The expanded rules for mobile phone use follows a public consultation that found 81 per cent 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 country’s ‘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, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
“Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcome,” said Mary Williams, Chief Executive of Brake – a road safety charity.
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.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)