Change to the law on using a mobile phone while driving takes effect from 25 March 2022.
On 25 March 2022 the law will become stricter on people using their mobile phones while driving in England, Wales and Scotland, to keep up with advances in technology. According to the UK Government, “the “array of functions that mobile phones can now perform has outgrown the wording of the offence and its parameters”.
The current law:
It has been an offence since 2003 to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar hand-held device while driving in Great Britain. There is a similar offence in Northern Ireland.
The offence provided by Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986) is specified as using a hand-held device for ‘interactive communication’: this refers largely to phone-calls and messages or accessing the internet.
Using a device whilst driving is an offence whether or not a collision occurs.
Currently, the minimum penalty for using a handheld mobile device is a mandatory 6 penalty points with an additional fine.
The new law:
The new law provides that an offence is committed whenever a driver holds and uses a device, regardless of why they are holding it. That is any advice which is capable of interactive communication even when that functionality is not enabled at the time (including therefore devices used in flight mode).
The legislation is not seen to be straightforward and has led to drivers contesting allegations where the wording of the provision has been less than clear. In DPP Vs Barreto a 2019 case, a driver who was found to be recording a road traffic accident as it happened was acquitted due to his actions, i.e. filming, being outside of the scope of the legislation.
The Government’s reaction to that decision was that all use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is reckless and dangerous, and not just when being used for the purposes of a call or other interactive communication. The view was widely upheld and on1 February 2022, the Government laid a Statutory Instrument, which will enact the amendment.
What will the new law mean?
The new law will amend the 1986 Regulations and will mean the offence is triggered whenever a driver holds and uses a device, regardless of why they are holding it and includes:
- unlocking the device
- accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages
- accessing an app
- accessing the internet
- checking the time
- checking notifications
- unlocking the device
- making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet based call
- sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content
- sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video
- utilising camera, video, or sound recording
- drafting any text
- illuminating the screen
Exceptions to the rule will only apply in an emergency or, the new exemption, which is to make a contactless payment at a payment terminal for goods or services.
Using a mobile phone for navigation will also be allowed only where the phone is situated in a cradle.