Motorists are being warned that changes to legislation around phone use while driving could expose millions more to fines and penalty points as a long-standing loophole is closed.
Currently, it is against the law to use a handheld phone to make or receive calls or messages while driving but outdated language in the legislation means activities such as taking photos or scrolling through music playlists aren’t illegal.
However, from 25 March, the law is being updated to reflect the capabilities of modern phones and stop their use in virtually all circumstances.
What are the changes to the law?
The original law was created 17 years ago and banned “interactive communication” but not other offline uses. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the updates to the rules were being made to reflect the wide range of functions of modern smartphones and effectively ban any phone use while driving.
Under the changes, the law will be expanded to make it an offence to use a phone or other handheld device for non-connected mobile application actions while driving, including while stopped at traffic lights or in traffic jams. This will include but isn’t limited to:
Illuminating the screen Unlocking the device Checking the time Checking notifications Rejecting a call Composing text messages or emails to save in drafts Taking photos or videos Using the phone’s camera as a mirror Searching for music stored on the phone Searching for photos or other images stored in the phone Dictating voice messages into the phone Reading a book downloaded on the phone Playing a game downloaded on the phone
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. As before, drivers will still be allowed to make emergency 999 calls where it would be unsafe or impractical to stop.
An new exemption is also being introduced that will allow for using contactless payment at locations such as drive-through restaurants.
What are the fines and penalties?
Breaking the revised law will carry the same punishment as before.