Drivers will soon no longer be able to escape punishment for using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel after the Government revealed plans to close an outdated legal loophole. Drivers are technically only banned from making calls or texting while in charge of a vehicle – with pressure mounting for the law to be brought up to date to include functions like taking a photo, watching videos or playing games. The Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to open a consultation into the law change comes as “very welcome” news to the RAC and is a positive step towards making phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. Hands-free phone use will still be allowed under the proposals, despite calls from some ministers that certain functions are just as distracting as hand-held use. And an exemption will be made under the plans to allow mobiles to be used for contactless payments – such as at a drive-thru restaurant – as long as the vehicle is stationary and goods are delivered immediately. Expected to come into effect during early 2021 (pending outcomes of the consultation) the law change would apply across the UK – with the punishment for breaking hand-held law amounting to six penalty points and a £200 fine. RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The closing of this loophole is very welcome and reflects the multitude of ways drivers can use hand-held phones when behind the wheel in 2020. “We know that the use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel continues to represent a very real road safety risk, so it’s clear more needs to be done to make this as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. “It’s important that alongside this change to the law, the Government looks seriously at other options that can help enforce the law, which should include new camera technology that can detect different types of hand-held mobile phone use.”
16th February 2021
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