A blanket ban on holding a mobile phone while driving is coming to Britain’s roads, as new law bans motorists from picking up their mobiles for any reason.
Drivers caught holding phones for reasons such as browsing social media or inputting a location now face six points and a fine of up to £200.
A loophole in the current law means reckless drivers can be prosecuted only if they are caught using hand-held phones to call or text, with those who take photos or scroll through music playlists exempt from punishment.
Police have struggled to enforce the current law because they are often unable to prove exactly what drivers are using their phones for. Critics have also argued that the existing rules fail to reflect the reality that drivers pick up their phones for many reasons other than calling or texting.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change to the law will ‘bring it into the 21st century’. ‘‘We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern-day life but we are also committed to making our roads safe,’’ he added.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is pushing the review forward as a ‘matter of urgency’ and hopes to have the law changed by spring next year. Before then, officials need to test the various amendments with the public to make sure the law is as clear as it can be and is fully understood.
Transport select committee chairman, Mr Lilian Greenwood, said: ‘’The Government’s decision to accept our recommendation to tighten up the law around the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is great news.
‘’The difference between interactive communications and stand-alone functions on our phones is a loophole that has prevented police from prosecuting drivers who continue to use their phones behind the wheel and put themselves and other road users at risk.’’
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, added: ‘’These tougher rules are common sense and echo what we have both been calling for. The moment anyone picks up their mobile to text, tweet or email from behind the wheel, they are a danger to themselves and others.’
Nick Lloyd, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: ‘Drivers who use their phones are up to four times more likely to crash. ”We highlighted this loophole in the summer and are delighted that such prompt action is being taken to ensure that all hand-held mobile phone use is to be prohibited.’’
MPs had wanted the DfT to ban hands-free calls after evidence showed they can be just as distracting as picking up a phone. ‘’But the Government said it wanted to ‘examine existing evidence about the risks of hands-free use and consider what a ban on hands-free would actually look like.’’
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