New laws on using phones while driving come into effect

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Updated law means a zero-tolerance approach to anyone using a handheld device behind the wheel

Stricter laws governing the use of mobile phones while driving have come into effect, making it illegal to use a handheld device at the wheel in nearly all circumstances. 

As of 25 March 2022, drivers will be deemed to be breaking the law if they use a mobile phone for “any use”, including taking photos, recording videos, scrolling through music playlists and playing games. 

Drivers caught using a handheld device while driving could be fined as much as £1000, receive six penalty points on their licence or be given a full driving ban. 

Those behind the wheel will still be able to make contactless payments at locations such as drive-throughs as long as their vehicle is stationary. 

Hands-free devices are also still legal, so drivers can still use sat-nav on their phones assuming they’re secured in a cradle. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said strict changes were being introduced to bolster safety, closing a loophole where drivers could claim they were not using their phone for “interactive communication” – a rule that was written before the widespread adoption of smartphones.

“I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I’m taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel,” Shapps said. “I’m ensuring anyone who chooses to break this vital law can face punishment for doing so, and we will continue our efforts to ensure our roads remain among the safest in the world.”

The new laws were proposed in parliament in November 2021, following a public consultation in which 81% of respondents supported tougher measures.

According to Think!, the government’s road safety arm, drivers are up to four times more likely to be involved in an accident when using a mobile phone. Think! also says a motorist’s reaction times are two times slower when texting while driving than while drink-driving.

The laws will be communicated to the public in England and Wales through an £800,000 communications campaign through on-demand video platforms, radio and social media. 

The AA welcomed the law changes, suggesting harsher regulations on using phones at the wheel were “much needed”. 

“The AA has long campaigned to make handheld mobile phone use whilst driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, and we warmly welcome the new law. This is a much needed toughening of the rules to help make our roads safer,” said AA president Edmund King. 

King also said phones secured in a cradle should be left alone for safety purposes.  

“Those that believe that they can still play with their phone because it’s in a cradle must think again. They leave themselves open to prosecution for either careless or dangerous driving,” he said.

“The best thing to do is to convert your glovebox into a phonebox. We all need to keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road.”

Source: Autocar

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