Starting today, motorists are breaking the law if they use a cell phone while driving for any purpose, including taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists or playing games. – as the government closes a loophole previously exploited by dangerous drivers to escape conviction.
Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000 as well as 6 points on their license or a driving ban altogether.
The award-winning THINK! The team is also today launching an £800,000 awareness campaign to remind drivers not to use mobile phones while driving and the penalties for choosing to ignore this new law.
Millions of young people will start seeing the ads in the coming weeks, showing friends appearing in the back seat to intervene when the driver is tempted to use their phone while driving.
The campaign will run on video on demand, online video, social media channels and radio in England and Wales until the end of April.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I take a zero-tolerance approach to those who choose to risk their lives by using their phones while driving.
“I ensure that anyone who chooses to break this vital law can be punished for it, and we will continue our efforts to keep our roads among the safest in the world.”
Edmund King, A.A. President, said: “The AA has long campaigned to make cell phone use while driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving and we warmly welcome the new law. It is a much-needed tougher set of rules to help making our roads safer.Those who believe they can still play with their phone because it’s in a crib need to think again – they open themselves to lawsuits for reckless or dangerous driving.
“The best thing you can do is convert your glove box into a phone booth. We all need to keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road.
Drivers can make contactless payments, for example while driving, as long as their vehicle is stationary. They can also use a “hands-free” device while driving if it is secured in a cradle, allowing motorists to use their phone as a GPS.
However, they must still take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offense if the police find that they do not control their vehicle properly.
The updates to the law follow a public consultation which found that 81% of respondents supported these proposals to make it easier to prosecute perpetrators. Previously, the law only applied to so-called “interactive communications”, such as making a call, as it was written before cellphones could be used for more complicated tasks such as taking videos. . Previously, people caught using their mobile phones while driving have sometimes been able to escape conviction by claiming they were not using them for ‘interactive communication’. The updated law ensures that no one will be able to use the loophole to escape conviction.
It is the latest government initiative to boost road safety, with the Department for Transport’s £100million Safer Roads Fund recently winning the prestigious Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Award.