The Department for Transport has announced that tougher rules on using a mobile phone while driving will be put into force from March 25.
The move will see previous loopholes closed, which allowed drivers to operate their phone to take a picture or video, as well as other actions. Motorists are facing points and a fine if caught under the new rules, so here’s what you need to know about the changes.
How are the rules changing?
Though it’s already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) from a hand-held device when behind the wheel, these changes take things a step further. These new rules 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 music playlists when sat in traffic, as well as checking the time on your phone or viewing notifications. You could be charged even if you’re caught unlocking the phone or causing the screen to illuminate.
Do I face penalty points if I’m caught?
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.
Could I use my phone if I’m sitting in stationary traffic?
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. Using your phone at these times is illegal, unless in very exceptional circumstances, such as calling the emergency services.
Will I still be able to use my phone as a sat-nav?
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.
Will I still be able to make contactless payments?
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 entering a toll road or at a drive-through restaurant, when stationary.
What have motoring groups said?
Edmund King, AA president, said: “The AA has long campaigned to toughen up these rules, and we welcome this announcement. This is a much needed upgrade of the law to help make our roads safer.
“Mobile phones offer many distractions and this sends a clear message that picking them up to use them will not be tolerated. The law will also become tougher as the use of smart watches, tablets and laptops behind the wheel will apply.
“Drivers will be extremely limited on when they can pick up their phone, mainly to call the emergency services when there was no opportunity to safely pull over, and to make contactless payments at drive-thrus. Being sat in a traffic jam or waiting at the lights is not an excuse, we want people to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.”