Explainer

Loophole allowing drivers to escape punishment for using phones closes with £1,000 fine threat

  • ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports on the new changes in rules for using a phone while driving

A loophole allowing drivers to escape punishment for hand-held phone use if they are taking a photo or playing a game will be closed from Friday.

New rules ban virtually all hand-held use of mobile phones on Britain’s roads, in what Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described as a “zero-tolerance approach”.

What are the new rules?

Making phone calls and texting are now not the only functions banned when behind the wheel.

From Friday, the ban includes:

  • Taking photos or videos

  • Scrolling through playlists

  • Playing games

Until Friday, drivers could escape punishment for taking a photo or playing a game. Credit: PA

How will law-breakers be punished?

Anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000, as well as six points on their licence.

Are there any exceptions to the ban?

Drivers will still be allowed to use their phones to make contactless payments, such as at drive-thru restaurants, as long as their vehicle is stationary.

They can also use their device as a sat-nav if it is secured in a cradle.

How dangerous is driving while using a phone?

Department for Transport figures show 17 people were killed and a further 114 were seriously injured in crashes on Britain’s roads in which a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor.

Mr Shapps said: “I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I am taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel.

“I’m ensuring anyone who chooses to break this vital law can face punishment for doing so, and we’ll continue our efforts to ensure our roads remain among the safest in the world.”

Making phone calls while driving has long been banned. Credit: PA

AA president Edmund King said: “This is a much-needed toughening of the rules to help make our roads safer.

“The best thing to do is to convert your glovebox into a phone box. We all need to keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road.”

How effective will the law change be?

An £800,000 Think! awareness campaign will run until the end of April.

An RAC survey of 2,000 UK drivers conducted last week indicated that 43% of motorists are not aware of the changes being introduced, and 45% believe they will not be effective.

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis: “The dial really needs to be turned up when it comes to enforcement, and that means police forces having the resources and technology they need to more easily catch those drivers that continue to flout the law.

“Cameras that can automatically detect handheld phone use exist and are in use in other countries, so we think it’s high time the UK government evaluated this technology with a view to allowing police forces to deploy it at the earliest opportunity.”