Do you use a phone or other hand-held device when driving? Consultation over proposals to close a legal loophole soon to end
A consultation into proposals to change the law surrounding the use of mobile phones while driving will end this week, with stricter rules likely to come into force in the next few months.
Currently it is a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving, but a legal loophole has allowed drivers to continue taking photos, checking the time or rejecting a call, for instance, as these activities are not seen as ‘interactive communication’.
What could the new rules be?
To improve road safety, the government has proposed new rules for when motorists picks up a device and use it while driving.
Drivers will no longer be allowed to:
• illuminate the screen
• unlock the device
• check the time or notifications
• reject a call
• compose text messages or e-mails to save in drafts
• take photos or videos
• use the phone’s camera as a mirror
• search for stored music or images
• dictate voice messages into the phone
• read a book or play a game downloaded on the phone.
What is the current law?
Under existing law, it’s illegal for drivers to use a mobile phone, hand-held tablets, electronic notepads and gaming equipment when:
• supervising a provisional driver;
• making or receiving a phone call;
• sending a text message or email; or
• accessing social media sites and streaming services.
If found guilty of using your phone while driving, you will receive a fine of up to £200 and six penalty points on your licence. If the case is taken to the magistrates’ court, the maximum fine can increase up to £1,000 and a potential driving ban.
Drivers will still be allowed to use hands-free functions, such as their sat-nav, while driving and to pay contactless for takeaway meals while their vehicle is stationary.
Studies show that driving while using a mobile device will impair your performance. You are four times more likely to be in a crash if you use your phone, and your reaction times are twice a slow if you text and drive than if your drink-drive, according to research by government campaign Think!.
Go to the Department of Transport’s survey if you want to take part in the consultation on using a mobile while driving. You have until 11.59pm on Sunday 17 January to have your say.
How could ignoring the rules affect your money?
- You could pay a £200 fine or up to £1,000 in a magistrate’s court.
- Points on your licence will lead to higher motor insurance costs.
- If you get six points on your licence in the first two years after your pass your test, you will lose your licence.
- If you lose your licence, you will have to pay for taxis when you travel out of hours or public transport is not available.
- You could lose your job if it involves driving.
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