The DfT claims that drivers using a phone escaped punishment because they did not use their devices for “interactive communication,” so their actions were not illegal within the meaning of the law that prohibits ” use phones while driving. This means that people have managed to get rid of the fees even though they are playing games or filming videos on their phones while driving because they are not using their device to communicate.
But the changes to the highway code would allow motorists to use their phones to pay for goods in drive-thru restaurants, as long as their vehicle is not moving.
Ministers rejected calls to go further by banning the use of hands-free functions – drivers will still be able to safely continue to use “hands-free” devices while driving, such as secure GPS in a cradle.
Road Minister Baroness Vere said: “Our roads are among the safest in the world, but we want to make sure they are even safer by bringing the law into the 21st century.
“This is why we are seeking to strengthen the law to make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a wider range of circumstances.
“It’s distracting and dangerous, and for too long risky drivers have been able to escape punishment, but this update will mean those who do the wrong thing will face the full force of the law.”
The change in law would apply across Britain and is expected to come into effect early next year, pending the outcome of the consultation.
In 2019, there were 637 fatalities on UK roads – including 18 fatalities and 135 serious injuries – in crashes where a driver using a mobile was a contributing factor.
The penalty for drivers caught breaking the rules on the use of portable portable devices is six penalty points and a fine of £ 200.
The University of Leeds has been commissioned by the DfT to analyze mobile use by 52 drivers over a total of 765 trips.
Some 662 telephone interactions were observed, of which only 38 were completely hands-free.
A car driven at 30 mph covers 100 feet in 2.3 seconds, which shows how spending a moment to change a song on a playlist or check an app can lead to a crash.
The head of the National Police Chiefs Council for Road Enforcement, Police Chief Anthony Bangham, said: “Using a cell phone while driving is incredibly dangerous and being distracted while driving can change lives forever.
“The police will take strong action against those who illegally use a portable cell phone and proposals to make the law clearer are welcome.”
Nicholas Lyes, RAC’s Head of Road Policy, said: “Closing this loophole is welcome and reflects the multitude of ways in which drivers can use cell phones while driving in 2020.
“We know that the use of portable cell phones while driving continues to pose a very real risk to road safety, so it is clear that more needs to be done to make this as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.
“It is important that alongside this change in the law, the government is seriously considering other options that can help enforce the law, which should include new camera technology capable of detecting different types of cell phone use. “