A blanket ban on holding a mobile phone while driving is coming to Britain’s roads.
A loophole in the current law means reckless drivers can be prosecuted only if they are caught using hand-held phones to call or text, with those who take photos or scroll through music playlists exempt from punishment.
But, in a major change to the law announced today, motorists are to be banned from picking up their mobiles for any reason.
Drivers caught holding phones for reasons such as browsing social media or inputting a satnav location now face six points and a fine of up to £200.
Police have struggled to enforce the current law because they are often unable to prove exactly what drivers are using their phones for.
British Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 24 October 2019. Shapps said that laws for handling phones while driving need to change to bring the law into the 21st century
Critics have also argued the existing rules fail to reflect the reality that drivers pick up their phones for many reasons other than calling or texting. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change to the law will ‘bring it into the 21st century’. ‘We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern-day life but we are also committed to making our roads safe,’ he added.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is pushing the review forward as a ‘matter of urgency’ and hopes to have the law changed by spring next year. Before then, officials need to test the various amendments with the public to make sure the law is as clear as it can be and is fully understood.
The move marks a fresh victory for the Daily Mail’s End The Mobile Madness campaign, which has led calls for tougher penalties.
Builder Ramsey Barreto, 51 (pictured), used his phone to video a crash scene while passing the wreckage, and was initially found guilty by magistrates of using his phone while driving
A driver who filmed the aftermath of a road crash was cleared of using a phone at the wheel – thanks to the loophole in the law that is now being been closed.
Ramsey Barreto, 51, was charged with using his mobile phone while driving and convicted by magistrates last year.
But the builder had his conviction quashed by the High Court in July after judges pointed out the rules did not ban using a phone to shoot video while driving.
Lady Justice Thirlwall said: ‘The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving.
‘It prohibits driving while using a phone for calls and other interactive communication – and holding it at some stage during that process.’ The case went to the High Court after an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Max Hill.
The DPP’s lawyer, Louis Mably QC, argued there was ‘no rational distinction’ between using a mobile for interactive communication and for ‘a different equally distracting purpose’.
Lady Justice Thirlwall described the law as ‘cumbersome’ but conceded that it only bans using a phone for communication.
She warned the decision was not ‘a green light for people to make films as they drive’, adding: ‘Driving while filming events or taking photographs whether with a separate camera or with the camera on a phone, may be cogent evidence of careless driving and possibly of dangerous driving.’
New laws were introduced in 2017 after our campaign highlighted a spate of deaths caused by reckless drivers calling or texting while at the wheel. Although they have helped deter the menace, many drivers have