The Laws Around The Use of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving
The Laws Surrounding The Use Of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving Have Been Reviewed – What Does This Mean For Your Drivers?
An announcement from the Department for Transport says that the government will be strengthening road traffic laws to make it illegal to use a mobile phone in most circumstances while driving.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, made the announcement and said the government aimed to make it easier to prosecute those using their phone while driving. This is due to the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred while phones are being used in ways not currently clearly outlined as prohibited under law.
Simon Morton, of award-winning criminal law solicitors Morton’s Solicitors, in Stockport, Cheshire, explains what the current law is, and how these changes could catch out many drivers.
What is the Current Law?
It is currently illegal to use a mobile phone while driving; sending a text or making/taking a call could result in prosecution.
The law comes under a failure to keep proper control of a vehicle by using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held interactive communication device.
The offence is committed when a driver holds the phone and uses it for an interactive communication function such as a text or call.
The penalty for using a mobile phone in these circumstances is six penalty points and either a fine or fixed penalty.
What was the consultation and why was it called?
The change follows a public consultation last year in which the government says 81% of people supported the change.
The current law covers the situation where a phone or device is being used for an interactive communication function, so it would not cover, for example, taking a photo or video whilst in control of a vehicle.
The intent behind the consultation was to broaden the offence to cover the standalone use of a phone as well as interactive communication.
What are the proposed changes?
The new law will make it unlawful to use a phone for standalone functions. This will include searching for music, taking photos or videos, and playing games.
In order to assist understanding of the changes, there will be alterations made to the Highway Code, and government guidance will be expanded upon.
The list of prohibited functions that will appear in the revised legislation is said to be non-exhaustive; instead, it is a comprehensive guide to the possible scope of the offence.
The law will cover not just phones but all devices capable of interactive communication, whether or not that capability is enabled at the time of use.
Are there any exceptions?
There will be exceptions to the use of devices so that contactless payment may be used where goods are to be received immediately, such as at a drive through.
The addition of the words “goods to be received immediately” means that a driver cannot simply make an internet payment at the wheel. The exception applies to contactless payment made with a card reader while stationary (e.g. paying for a toll-road at the terminals on that toll-road), not general internet payments (e.g. sat in traffic and remembering to pay a bill).
Drivers will still be able to use a device if it is hands-free; this would include using it as a sat-nav if secured in a cradle.
A cautionary note though to any driver using a device, even under an exception. Every effort should be made to ensure that the driver has proper control of the vehicle; otherwise a separate offence may be committed.
Can a phone be used whilst stationary at traffic lights?
Being stationary in traffic, at traffic lights or in a traffic jam still counts as driving, so the use of a device in those circumstances would still be an offence, “except in very limited circumstances”. The announcement does not set out those circumstances, but they are likely to include emergency use.
Changes to the Highway Code
The Code will be revised to provide clarity and eliminate misunderstandings. Any proposed changes will be put before Parliament for agreement.
What is the penalty for the offence?
The offence could be dealt with by way of a £200 fixed penalty and six penalty points, or by way of a fine and points if dealt with at court.
Got a Question? – Contact Morton’s Solicitors
If you have any questions in relation to this article or any other motoring offences, you can contact Morton’s Solicitors on 0161 477 1121 or visit their website by clicking the button below.