UK government tightens rules on mobile phone usage while driving

by Felix Page, Autocar UK 19 Nov 2021


The UK government is tightening the rules around mobile phone usage while driving, imposing a ban on using the devices to film, take videos, scroll through playlists and play games.

The law has been strengthened to allow police to “more easily prosecute drivers using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel”. It is already illegal to make calls or send texts while driving, but these new measures will criminalise use of a mobile phone “while driving under virtually any circumstance”.

The changes come into effect from 2022, ushering in a £200 (Rs 18,118) fixed penalty notice and six points for anyone caught using their phone at the wheel.

However, there will be an exemption, to allow drivers to use their phones to make contactless payments – at restaurants and tolls – when stationary. The Department for Transport (DfT) said this will “ensure the law keeps pace with technology”. 

So, too, will drivers be allowed to use a phone as a sat-nav device if it is secured in a cradle. 

The changes come in the wake of a public consultation that found 81% of respondents were in favour of plans to strengthen the law. The revisions will be written into the Highway Code, with the clarification that even being stopped in traffic still counts as driving. 

In 2019, a driver who filmed a video while driving was cleared by the High Court of using his device illegally, after a judge found the law didn't specifically cover using a phone in this way. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps explained the motivation for the tightened restrictions: “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held.

"By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users.

“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning Think! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers."

 

Tags: phone usage