In addition to the recent updates to the Highway Code, stricter laws on using a phone are coming into force from March 2022 onwards across the UK. These new measures are aimed at closing gaps in the current laws regarding driving while using a mobile phone.
All drivers should be aware of the upcoming laws and how they might impact their mobile phone usage. Keep reading to get a full overview of what you need to know.
Why Is the UK Introducing Tighter Mobile Phone Legislation?
At present, UK law states that “interactive communication” that is a “breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle, such as using a mobile phone” is a punishable offence. Known as the CU80 offence, this law covers using a handheld mobile device to make calls to another person or send someone a text or email while you are driving.
This loose definition has allowed drivers to exploit loopholes and avoid punishment related to mobile phone usage while driving. There have been instances of drivers challenging convictions on the basis that they were not communicating with another person, but instead were scrolling playlists, browsing websites, playing games or taking photos or videos. Although certainly hazardous and irresponsible behaviour, these activities are not specifically prohibited by the current legislation.
If it has been proven that a driver has engaged in the activities above, they can be charged with being “not in proper control of the vehicle”. However, this is a lesser charge without the severe penalties of the CU80 offence. The government feels that the current laws do not reflect the tough position they wish to take on using a mobile phone while driving.
Difficulties with Existing Mobile Phone Driving Laws
Policing the current mobile phone laws is incredibly difficult. To ensure a conviction, police must prove that a driver was using their phone in an interactive manner that is covered by the existing laws. If a driver was using non-interactive functions on their phone, then the current laws do not apply.
As might be expected, it is exceptionally hard to show that a driver was using their phone to communicate interactively with another person rather than using it for a standalone purpose.
What Do the Stricter Phone Laws Cover?
The new phone laws address these issues by removing any distinction between a driver who is texting or phoning somebody else and a driver that is using their phone to scroll through a music playlist, play a game, or take videos or photos.
As of the 25th of March 2022, any driver using their phone for any purpose will be able to be prosecuted under the CU80 offence. The only exemption is if the phone is being used in hands-free mode although even then a driver can be charged if they appear to be unduly distracted. The new laws will also apply to any handheld device, including notepads or tablets.
Drivers will only be able to use their phones if they are parked safely and legally, the engine is off, all lights are off, and the handbrake is engaged.
Phone Activities That Are to Be Prohibited
Although this list is not exhaustive, the upcoming rules will prohibit the below phone activities while driving:
- Making or receiving calls
- Sending texts or emails
- Taking pictures or videos
- Scrolling music playlists
- Playing video games
- Using unsecured sat nav
- Accessing websites
- Looking at the time
- Rejecting a call
- Dictating messages
- Checking notifications
- Composing texts or emails
Can You Use a Two-Way Radio While Driving?
Two-way radios are exempt from the new rules. However, police can still issue a charge of not being in proper control of your vehicle if they believe a driver was excessively distracted while using a two-way radio.
Hands-Free Options for Your Phone
Drivers can access their phones hands-free by setting it on voice command only, by using a Bluetooth headset, by mounting it in a windscreen mount or a mat or dashboard holder, or by using it as a built-in sat-nav.
It should be noted that if you are using your phone as a sat-nav, it must be mounted correctly, kept in the cradle, and the route programmed before you start to drive.
What Are the Penalties Included in the New Law?
If you are caught using a handheld device while driving, you could be penalised up to six penalty points and be issued a £200 fine. If you have passed your driving test within two years of the offence, you will lose your licence.
If the offence is deemed to be of a serious nature, a driver may face court proceedings and a maximum fine of £1,000, which increases to £2,500 for lorry or bus drivers.