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In Great Britain, drivers will no longer be able to evade punishment for handheld phone use while driving after a loophole in the law was closed.
A driver may be fined up to £1,000 and may receive six points on their license for scrolling through their handheld device.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was taking a “zero-tolerance approach”.
Hands-free devices can still be used while driving if secured in a cradle.
The law change adds to an existing offense that includes making phone calls or sending text messages. However, this change does not apply in Northern Ireland.
In July 2019, a man junked a conviction for filming a crash by saying he was not using his phone “to communicate.”
Following that ruling, two High Court judges criticized the law on using phones while driving and said that the law had failed to evolve with technology.
Seventeen people have been killed and 114 seriously injured in vehicular accidents involving a driver using a mobile phone, according to figures from the Department for Transport (DfT).
The DfT added that drivers can still use their phones if their vehicle is stationary, especially for payments at drive-through restaurants.
Shapps said, “I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I am taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel.
“I’m ensuring anyone who chooses to break this vital law can face punishment for doing so, and we’ll continue our efforts to ensure our roads remain among the safest in the world.”
Phones behind the wheel: the law
The law requires drivers to take note of the following:
- Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal
- Any hands-free devices should be fully set up before driving
- Police still have the power to stop a driver if they think the driver is distracted
- The law still applies even if stopped in traffic or queueing at lights
- Penalty points, a fine, and/or a driving ban may apply if the law is broken
The changes were warmly welcomed by the Automobile Association. They said they want handheld phone use while driving to be “as socially unacceptable as drunk driving.”
Edmund King, the organization’s president, said, “This is a much needed toughening of the rules to help make our roads safer.”
He further said that “playing” with a phone in a cradle would still leave drivers open to charges of careless or dangerous driving.
81% of respondents had supported the move in a public consultation, prompting the government to change the law.