Tougher rules expected for phone use while driving
Did you know it’s not illegal for you to take a photo or make a video call at the wheel?
Surprising, we know.
Thankfully, it turns out that we’re not the only ones who think this might be a bit of an oversight. The government’s launched a consultation to pinpoint the best ways to tighten up loopholes in the UK’s handheld mobile phone use law.
As you’d hope, it is already illegal to make handheld calls or send text messages (WhatsApp included!) while behind the wheel. But taking photos? Making video calls? Playing online games?
No fine for taking photos at the wheel
It’s true; none of those things would land you the £200 fine and six penalty points you’d get for texting or making a call. But why?!
Well, the current piece of law that focuses on phone use in cars only stipulates that you can’t engage in “interactive telecommunication”. Guess it makes sense when you consider that this law was introduced in 2003. And since app-heavy smart phones didn’t exist back then, it’s about time that the law was changed.
Some might even say it’s overdue.
It’s hard to imagine why a change hasn’t been made before now. The apparent straw that broke the camel’s back was the quashing of a driver’s conviction after he capitalized on the loophole during an appeal last year. He’d been convicted for using his phone to film the scene of an accident as he drove past. Nice.
“Distracting and dangerous”
Roads Minister Charlotte Vere said: “We’re looking to strengthen the law to make using a handheld phone while driving illegal 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 doing the wrong thing will face the full force of the law.”
It’s expected that it will become illegal to even pick up your phone if you’re in the driver’s seat following the consultation.
Though don’t worry, McDonald’s fans, likely exemptions will include paying for food at drive-throughs.
It’s also likely that you’ll still be able to use your phone as a sat-nav, but only as long as it’s fixed in position and you don’t type in destinations while moving.
Is there really a problem?
According to statistics released last month, there really is. Just over 50% of polled drivers aged 17 to 24 admitted to making or receiving calls on a handheld phone in 2019, and 43% in 2020.
Furthermore, handheld phone use by all age groups increased by 5% this year, which is only 2% less than when harsher fines were introduced in 2016.
Whether prosecutions will increase once new legislation is brought in remains to be seen. Earlier this month it emerged that nearly two thirds of British police forces haven’t been using mobile safety cameras to prosecute drivers committing handheld phone offences, apparently because they thought it was illegal to do so.
Clearly an overhaul is needed in both legislation and monitoring! Would you welcome the change?