It has always been illegal to use a handheld mobile phone to send a text or make a phone call, except for an emergency call. However, the development of smartphones has created more loopholes within the legislation. Using your mobile phone while driving is just as dangerous as drink-driving because it takes your attention away from the road. Despite this, thousands of drivers are caught using their phones every year, while thousands more go unpunished. The need for change was clear.
What's more, 81% of respondents to a Government consultation in 2021 supported strengthening the law. As a result, the UK Government brought a new set of laws into force in January 2022. So, what has changed?
What Are the New Mobile Phone Driving Laws?
It is now illegal to do any of the following on a handheld mobile device while driving:
- Making or receiving a call (except in an emergency)
- Sending or reading a text
- Taking photos and videos
- Scrolling through a music playlist or social media
- Making online payments
As before, you can use your mobile phone in a limited capacity as long as it is in a hands-free cradle. However, you must stay in proper control of your vehicle and always assume responsibility for your driving.
What Are the Penalties For Using a Mobile Phone While Driving?
You will be charged by the police if you are caught using a handheld mobile phone while driving. They may also charge you if they believe that you were not in full control of your vehicle while using a hands-free device. The new penalties for using a mobile phone while driving are:
- A £200 fixed penalty notice
- 6 penalty points on your driving licence
- An extra 3 penalty points if the police believe your view of the road was obscured or you weren't in control of your vehicle.
If you have been driving for less than two years, this means your licence will be revoked for handheld use of your mobile phone.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Alongside making a call in an emergency, you can use your phone to make contactless payments while stationary. For example, you could use your mobile phone to pay for your drive-through order or a toll charge.
Are There Any Other Changes?
The Government has also updated the Highway Code to reflect the new laws. The main change sees being stationary in a traffic jam or at traffic lights classed as driving. This makes it illegal to use a handheld mobile phone in either situation.
While the new laws were met with support from the AA and road safety charity Brake, others have criticised the Government for not doing enough. Many have called for them to ban the use of a mobile phone when driving altogether, even in a hands-free cradle.
However, the changes are a strong step towards safer UK roads. As younger drivers are the ones most tempted to reach for their mobile phones while driving, the new penalties should act as a serious deterrent. It will also make it easier for the police to prosecute dangerous drivers.
Let us know what you think about the new mobile phone driving laws in the comments below or on Facebook.