On 25 March 2022 changes to the Road Traffic Act will prohibit drivers using phones for ‘standalone’ functions in vehicles and make it easier for the police to carry out enforcement responsibilities. Previous loopholes under the law are being closed, so the general message – don’t use mobile phones while driving unless you can do so in a hands-free way.
How is the law changing?
The current law already restricts drivers from texting or making phone calls. The actual legal text prohibits ‘using a mobile phone for communication purposes’. But mobile phone technology has moved on and not everything people use phones for relates to ‘communication’. This means you are currently able to carry out other phone functions, such as taking pictures and videos without breaking the law. The changes will mean that all of these functions, even unlocking your phone, will be prohibited from 25 March.
What is the penalty if you are caught?
You are facing a £200 fine and six penalty points on your licence if caught using your phone while driving. This includes using it whilst your vehicle is stationary, with only some limited exceptions such as calling the emergency services. The law is even harsher for new drivers, with those caught within the first two years of obtaining a licence at risk of losing it.
Sat nav use and hands-free?
The law does allow drivers to use sat nav and set up their phone in a hands-free way. The phone most be secured without the need for the driver to touch it whilst driving and drivers must be in control of the vehicle at all times.
If you use your phone to pay for drive-through takeaway coffee, fast food or at tolls then do not be concerned – there are exemptions in place to enable contactless payments to be made when the car is stationary.
But please please please do not be tempted to use your mobile phone while driving. A fine and penalty points should be the least of your concerns. Government figures show that last year 17 people were killed, 114 people were seriously injured and 385 received minor injuries as a result of collisions where drivers were distracted by their mobile phones. Unsurprisingly the changes have been welcomed by all major motoring and consumer organisations.