The Government is to strengthen laws on the use of hand-held devices while driving.

As it stands, it is illegal to text or make phone calls with a hand-held device while driving. However, under new rules – that will be introduced next year – drivers will be breaking the law if they use their phones to:

  • Take a photo or video
  • Play a game 
  • Scroll through playlists

A driver could face a £200 penalty and six points on their licence for breaking these rules.

The Department for Transport website says motorists can still use their phone hands-free as a sat-nav or for similar purposes, so long as they are “secured in a cradle”.

A man driving using his phone as a sat-nav
Drivers will still be able to use their phones as sat-navs, so long as they are in cradles

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

“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.”  

“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.”

A recent public consultation saw 81% of respondents approve of tightening the rules. 

The Highway Code will also be updated to cover the new laws. The rules will “be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving”. This includes emphasising that the use of a mobile phone at traffic lights and when stuck in a motorway traffic jam is illegal “except in very limited circumstances”.

An exception to the new law will permit a driver to make contactless payments when stationary – for instance at a restaurant or when paying a road toll. However, this will only apply when paid through a card reader, and does not cover “general online payments”.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “We strongly welcome the Government’s strengthening of the law on handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel. As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.”

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