There is a wide array of driving offences that can often result in fines, points on a licence – and, in more serious cases, driving bans and criminal prosecutions. One of these driving offences is the use of phones or the handling of sat navs while driving. In November 2021, the Government announced its intention to tighten the regulations on the use of mobile phones while driving. Read this blog to find out more.
What is the current position?
Currently, it is illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving, even while stationary at traffic lights or in a traffic jam. The exception to this is if a phone is being used to call the emergency services and it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
The use of a handheld mobile phone while driving can result in 6 penalty points and a fine of £200. If you’ve passed your driving test in the last two years you’ll also lose your licence.
If you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle, you can get 3 penalty points.
What are the changes?
The Government intends to strengthen the existing laws prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving. Under the new law, drivers will be banned from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.
This means that any driver caught using a handheld device while driving will face 6 points on their licence and a fine of £200.
Drivers will continue to be able to use hands-free devices (like sat navs) while driving, provided they are secured (eg in a cradle) and not blocking their view of the road and traffic ahead.
Drivers will also be able to continue using their phones using hands-free access (eg via voice command or a bluetooth headset). Where a mobile phone is secured in place (eg using a dashboard holder/mat or a windscreen mount), it must also not block the driver’s view of the road and traffic ahead.
Even where a hand-free device is used, drivers must always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if they are found to not be in proper control of their vehicle.
Are there any exemptions?
To keep up with technological developments, the law is set to include an exemption for drivers who are making a contactless payment using their phones while stationary. This exemption will only apply where payment is being made with a card reader (eg at a toll booth or drive-through). In other words, this exception will not allow drivers to make general online payments while driving.
When will the changes come into effect?
While an exact date has not yet been confirmed, the change to the law is set to come into force in 2022.
The Highway Code will be revised and updated to explain the new measures regarding the ban on the use of handheld devices.
The Government also intends to amend The Highway Code to provide further clarification about what counts as ‘being stationary in traffic’ while driving. This is to make it clear that the use of handheld phones is illegal when waiting at traffic lights or traffic jams except for in very limited circumstances.