Government changes law to make any use of handheld mobile phones while driving illegal

The Government is tightening laws around the use of mobile phones while driving to make it illegal under almost any circumstance.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 2:04 pm
The changes to the law will make it easier to prosecute offenders.

It is already illegal to text or make a phone call using a handheld device while driving, other than in an emergency. Next year, laws will ban drivers from using their phone to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games.

The Highway Code will also change, making it clear that use of handheld mobile devices at traffic lights or in traffic jams is illegal.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur whilst mobile phones are being held.

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“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.”

These changes come after a public consultation, which found that 81% of respondents supported strengthening these laws. Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.

Motorists will still be allowed to use ‘hands-free’ devices while driving, such as a sat-nav, if 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.

There will be an exemption for drivers making a contactless payment with their mobile phone while stationary, to ensure the law keeps pace with technology. This will only cover places like drive-through restaurants and road tolls, and does not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.

Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of road safety charity Brake, said: “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a handheld phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by the 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.”