There are tougher laws coming into play for drivers this week to tackle the issue of motorists using their mobile phone while driving. From Friday 25th March, motorists who use their mobile phone when behind the wheel could see themselves landed with a minimum penalty of a £200 fine and six points on their licence. This will also mean that any driver who has had their licence for less than two years will have it revoked, and will need to re-take their theory and practical test.
The new law will mean motorists can’t use their phone or any other handheld device for any purpose, even when their vehicle is stationary, in a traffic jam or stopped at traffic lights. It will also include drivers who are supervising a learner driver.
Penalties can be issued to drivers who:
- Unlock or illuminate the screen
- Check the time or notifications
- Use the camera, video or sound recording functions
- Draft any text
- Access stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlist, notes or messages
- Use an app
- Access the internet
The only exemptions to the new laws are for those using the contactless payment function on their phone at locations such as toll booths or drive-throughs. It will also apply to drivers who need to contact the emergency services and aren’t able to safely stop their vehicle to make the call.
Why are mobile phone driving laws changing?
In short, there is a major loophole in current mobile phone driving laws which means drivers can only face prosecution if they are using their phone for ‘interactive communication’, such as responding to a text message or holding the device for a phone call. This means motorists can’t technically be penalised for using their mobile phone to go on apps, take pictures or even play games while on the road.
This issue has been brought to light in many recent court cases, one being the 2019 case of DPP V Barreto. The driver involved, Mr Barreto, was initially found guilty of using his mobile phone at the wheel to record an accident. However, this was overturned at Isleworth Crown Court as he had not technically used his phone for interactive communication, and was therefore found not guilty.