23 October 2020

Drivers to be banned from picking up a mobile phone

Under new legislation, to be enacted next year, it will become illegal for anyone to pick up and use a mobile phone while driving. At present, drivers are banned from making a phone call or sending a text message while they are driving, but a loophole in the law enables drivers to escape punishment for using a hand-held device to take a photograph or play a game, as this is not classed as an interactive communication.

In 2019, there were 637 casualties on Britain’s roads in crashes where a driver using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. This included 18 deaths and 135 serious injuries.

RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: 
“The closing of this loophole is very welcome. We know that the use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel continues to represent a very real road safety risk, so it’s clear more needs to be done to make this as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.”

The change in the law is expected to come into effect early next year, following a consultation period. National Police Chief’s Council lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: “Using a mobile phone while driving is incredibly dangerous and being distracted at the wheel can change lives forever. Police will take robust action against those using a hand-held mobile phone illegally and proposals to make the law clearer are welcome.”

Ministers rejected calls to ban the use of hands-free function, so drivers will still be able to use hands-free devices, such as paying for a drive-through takeaway or using a sat nav in a phone cradle.

The punishment for drivers caught breaking the rules on use of a hand-held mobile while driving is six penalty points and a £200 fine. The law states that:

If you are involved in a road traffic accident and found to be using a hand-held device, there is a possibility that your insurance could be void or own damage not covered. So, apart from the serious road safety risk you pose, there is also the issue that you may not be insured. For both reasons, we would urge drivers to obey the law and not make use of hand-held devices while driving.