Road safety: Drivers to be banned from handling mobile phones
From next year, it could become illegal for anyone to pick up and use their mobile phone while driving, putting an end a loophole that can allow drivers to escape punishment for using a hand-held phone to take a photo or play a game.
A consultation has been launched, proposing expanding the use mobile phones while driving rules to include the use of stored, non-connected (‘standalone mode’ or ‘flight mode’) functions. Presently, it is an office to make phone calls and send text messages whilst driving.
The consultation proposes to:
- Broaden the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving so that it captures standalone mode functions as well as the existing interactive communication functions;
- Introduce a new exemption to the using a hand-held mobile phone while driving offence to allow drivers to make contactless payments using a mobile phone at appropriate locations, for example at drive through food outlets.
The changes, if implemented, will need to be reflected in The Highway Code, and the consultation document includes the suggested revised wording.
The consultation document is set out as follows:
- Chapter one sets out the problems that have arisen since the mobile phone offence was initially enacted in 2003. The main problem is that the offence is restricted to functions involving interactive communication and does not capture the range of standalone functions that drivers can now perform using a hand-held mobile phone. It also sets out how the Government intends to be clearer in law about the types of devices that are covered by the offence.
- Chapter two deals with a proposed new exemption from the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. It explains that the Government does not wish to thwart technological advances and wants to make provision for them where it is safe and sensible to do so. Against this background the document proposes an exemption for drivers who make a contactless payment for goods or services that they receive immediately, for example at a drive-through restaurant.
- Chapter three proposes amending the advice in the Highway Code about using mobile phones while driving. It sets out a revised Rule 149 which takes account of the proposed change to the law described in Chapters one and two.
The closing date for comments is 17 January 2021.
Click here for the document.
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