The government has confirmed it will close a legal loophole which has allowed drivers to escape prosecution for hand-held mobile phone use while behind the wheel.
At present, the law prevents drivers from using a hand-held mobile phone to call or text.
However, people caught filming or taking photos while driving have escaped punishment as lawyers have successfully argued that the activity does not fit into the ‘interactive communication’ currently outlawed by the legislation.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that he will urgently take forward a review to tighten up the existing law. The revised legislation will mean any driver caught texting, taking photos, browsing the internet or scrolling through a playlist while behind the wheel will be prosecuted for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Mr Shapps said: “We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern day life, but we are also committed to making our roads safe. Drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone are hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time – putting people’s lives at risk.
“We welcome the Transport Select Committee’s report, and share their drive to make our roads even safer which is why this review will look to tighten up the existing law to bring it into the 21st century, preventing reckless driving and reducing accidents on our roads.”
The latest move will see the government go further than ever to ensure the law reflects the use of devices that allow other distracting activities. The impact of the behaviour is proven: if a driver looks at their phone for just two seconds while travelling at 30 miles per hour, whether to reply to a message or send a quick snap, they will travel 100ft blind, drastically increasing the chance of an accident.
The review will be urgently taken forward, with further proposals expected to be in place by next spring making the offence clearer for drivers and police forces.
Nick Lloyd, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, commented: “Drivers who use their phones are up to four times more likely to crash.
RoSPA highlighted this loophole in the summer and is delighted that such prompt action is being taken to ensure that all hand-held mobile phone use is to be prohibited, making our roads safer for all.”
While ministers have also announced that they will consider the current penalties in place for hand-held mobile phone use, there are no plans to ban hands-free phone use.
Chief constable Anthony Bangham, National Police Chiefs Council lead for roads policing, added: “Technology has moved on since the original offence was introduced and it’s important to ensure any distraction to a driver is kept to an absolute minimum to keep all road users as safe as possible.”