Legislation on using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is to be tightened up to close a loophole that has allowed people to take photos and videos behind the wheel.
The current legislation prevents drivers from using a hand-held mobile phone to call or text, but the law is set to be updated in spring 2020 to reflect advancements in smartphone technology.
The revised laws will include using hand-held phones to browse the internet, film, take photos, or scroll through playlists.
What is the penalty for using a phone while driving?
The fixed penalty for driving while using a hand-held mobile phone is £200 and six penalty points.
Courts can also fine car drivers up to £1,000, and HGV and bus drivers up to £2,500 while issuing a driving disqualification.
When will the new rules be in place?
The Department for Transport said the review will be carried out “urgently” with further proposals “expected to be in place by next spring”.
What are the current laws?
At the moment, using a hand-held mobile phone or sat nav while driving is illegal.
It’s no excuse to say you were following a map – if you want to use sat nav on your mobile phone, you have to have it fixed to your windscreen or dashboard (as long as it’s not obstructing your view of course).
You’re able to use your phone if you’re safely parked, but this doesn’t apply to being stopped in traffic or queuing at lights – using your phone in these cases is illegal.
If you’re stopped by the police and you’ve broken the law, you could get penalty points, a fine, and/ or a driving ban.
There is however, a proviso for emergencies. You can make 999 or 112 calls on a hand-held device while driving if it’s not safe to stop.
Will you still be able to use a hands-free mobile?
If a phone is fully hands-free – you can’t pick it up or communicate on it at all – then you can use it in your car while driving.
You need to set it up before you drive so that any calls can be taken hands-free while driving. The police can still stop you though if they think you’re distracted – even if you’re using hands-free.
Some road safety groups are campaigning to have hands-free phones banned while driving.
Why is the new legislation coming?
The original law around driving with mobile phones was put in place 16 years ago, before smartphones were widely used.
Only texting or phoning on a mobile phone were punishable offences, and a number of cases have seen drivers get off on this technicality.
For example, in July a man was convicted for filming a crash, but the case was overturned as he was able to argue he wasn’t using the phone to communicate.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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.”
The action comes following a report by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee which urged the government to introduce tighter restrictions on driving while using a mobile phone.
A ban on hands-free was also recommended but the government said there are no plans to introduce this.