New mobile phone laws for motorists: what you need to know

The rules surrounding when you’re allowed to use your phone are changing. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Drivers using mobile phones
Drivers using mobile phones

The government is strengthening the rules surrounding the use of mobile phones in cars. This change has been brought about as the number of ways we use our phones has increased, with smartphones now used for a variety of different reasons rather than just calls and messages.

So what do you need to know about these rule changes? Let’s take a look below.

So what exactly is changing?

Though it’s already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) from a hand-held device, these new rules go one stage further. These new laws will ban drivers from using their phones for other reasons, such as when taking a picture, recording a video or playing a game.

It also covers scrolling through playlists when in traffic.

Are there any penalty points if I’m caught using my phone?

Yes. Anyone caught using their hand-held device behind the wheel now faces a £200 penalty and six points on their licence.

That also means that if a driver is caught for this offence within two years of passing their test, they could have their licence revoked.

What about stationary traffic? Can I use my phone then?

Absolutely not. In fact, the government is revising the Highway Code to make things clearer in this area, stating that being in stationary traffic still counts as driving.

This is the same case for waiting at traffic lights or sitting in a traffic jam. Using your phone at these times is illegal, unless in very exceptional circumstances.

When will these new rules come into force?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said that the new rules will come into play ‘next year’.

Can I still use my phone as a sat-nav?

Mobile phone
Integrated and hands-free systems can still be used

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Of course. But it must be ‘hands-free’, so secured in a cradle when being used like this. However, drivers must still be in proper control of their vehicle and police could charge them if they find them to be driving irresponsibly.

What about contactless payments? Can I still make those?

The Government has added an exemption to the rules with regards to contactless payments. It means that drivers won’t be charged for using their phones to make payments when at certain areas, such as a toll or drive-through restaurant, when stationary.

What has government said about it?

Mobile phone
The rules surrounding mobile phone use in cars are changing

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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.”

And have motoring groups reacted to the news?

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “We strongly welcome the Government’s strengthening of the law on handheld mobile phone use behind the wheel. As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.

“Our research suggests that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while six per cent say they have played a game.

“While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”

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