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New laws on using a mobile phone whilst driving

Today, 25 March 2022, the laws on using a mobile phone whilst driving in Great Britain will become stricter.

Why is the law changing?

Since 2003, it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device whilst driving. The offence (under Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986) is specified as using a hand-held device for ‘interactive communication’: principally phone-calls and messages or accessing the internet.

The law is changing to keep up to date with technology. Mobile phones are now capable of more than making phone calls, sending messages and accessing the internet. The government said that the "array of functions that mobile phones can now perform has outgrown the wording of the offence".

What is the new law?

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.

The new law states that the offence “will cover any device which is capable of interactive communication even if that functionality is not enabled at the time.” This would include a device being in flight mode.

The new law states that ‘using’ a phone will be expanded to cover the following:

  • illuminating the screen

  • 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

  • accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages

  • accessing an app

  • accessing the internet

Are there exemptions?

The exemption to use a phone in an emergency still applies, but the new law creates one new exemption. Drivers will be permitted to hold and use a device while driving to make a contactless payment at a payment terminal for goods or services. The vehicle would have to be stationary, and the item being paid for must be provided at the same time or after the contactless payment is made. Such a transaction might include paying for a car park or drive-through coffee using a phone.

The explanatory notes also say that using a mobile phone for navigation will continue to be legal, as long as it is kept in a cradle and not in the driver’s hand.

Blog written by Gemma Adams, Chartered Legal Executive

To speak to Gemma about this article, or if you require legal advice, please click HERE


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