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Great Britain will no longer be able to evade punishment for using their phone while driving after a loophole in the law was closed.
A fine of up to £1,000 may be implemented, and the driver may receive six points on their license for scrolling through their handheld device.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was taking a “zero-tolerance approach”.
Devices can still be used hands-free while driving if secured in a cradle.
The change in the law extends an existing offense that includes making phone calls or sending text messages. However, it does not apply in Northern Ireland.
In July 2019, a man dismissed a conviction for filming a crash by saying he was not using his phone “to communicate.”
Following that decision, two High Court judges criticized the law on phone use while driving, saying that the law did not evolve with technology.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says that 17 people have been killed and 114 seriously injured in vehicular accidents involving a driver using a mobile phone.
The DfT added that drivers can still use their phones if their vehicle is stationary. This is particularly useful in contactless payments, such as in drive-through restaurants.
Shapps said, “I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I am taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel.
“I’m ensuring anyone who chooses to break this vital law can face punishment for doing so, and we’ll continue our efforts to ensure our roads remain among the safest in the world.”
Phones behind the wheel: the law
The law requires drivers to take note of the following:
- Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal
- Any hands-free devices should be fully set up before driving
- Police still have the power to stop a driver if they think the driver is distracted
- The law still applies even if stopped in traffic or queueing at lights
- Penalty points, a fine, and/or a driving ban may apply if the law is broken
The Automobile Association welcomed the changes, saying they want handheld phone use while driving to be “as socially unacceptable as drunk driving.”
Edmund King, the organization’s president, said, “This is a much needed toughening of the rules to help make our roads safer.”
He continued that “playing” with a phone secured in a cradle would still leave drivers open to cases of careless or dangerous driving.
81% of respondents had supported the move in a public consultation, pushing the government to adjust the law.