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Holding mobile phone while driving to be banned after loophole is closed

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Motorists face prosecution for holding a mobile while driving after the Government announced a legal loophole is set to be closed.

The loophole allowed drivers to escape prosecution for using a phone to film or take photos.

Earlier this year Ramsey Barreto successfully appealed against a conviction for filming the scene of a crash while driving after his lawyers argued the rules only relate to using a phone for “interactive communication”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it will revise the legislation so any driver caught using a hand-held phone behind the wheel can be prosecuted whether they are texting, taking photos, browsing the internet or scrolling through a music playlist.

The action follows a recent report by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee which urged the Government to introduce tougher restrictions on using a mobile phone while driving.

It expects the proposals to be in place by spring 2020.

The committee also recommended that ministers should consider a ban on hands-free use, but the DfT said there are no plans to introduce such a measure.

In 2018, there were 683 casualties on Britain’s roads – including 29 deaths and 118 serious injuries – in crashes where a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor.

Texting at the wheel is illegal. Credit: PA

Since March 2017, motorists caught using a hand-held phone have faced incurring six points on their licence and a £200 fine – up from the previous penalty of three points and £100.

Transports Minister Grant Shapps said drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone are putting lives at risk by “hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time”.

He continued: “This review will look to tighten up the existing law to bring it into the 21st century, preventing reckless driving and reduce accidents on our roads.”

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the committee, described the announcement as “great news” but warned that “the risk from hands-free devices is just as real”.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams warned that tightening the rules on phone use is “only as powerful as the level of enforcement”.

He said: “In the absence of technology being used to catch offenders, the decline in the number of road police officers means there is a much lesser chance of being caught in person today than there was 10 years ago.”