Next Friday, March 25, will see the long-awaited introduction of tougher laws for motorists who use their mobile phones while driving.
Since 2003, it has been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.
However, this regulation provides that for the offense to be committed, the driver would have to use the device for the purpose of “interactive communication”, as explained in this article published by the Library of the House of Commons.
But with the rise of smartphones over the past 15 or so years, legislation has quickly become obsolete, with mobile devices capable of performing a number of functions, including playing or recording videos, or playing of music, with users able to change songs. through the app they’re using – something that potentially distracts from driving.
The lack of effectiveness of the current law was highlighted in the 2019 DPP v Barreto case, where a motorist filming the aftermath of a traffic accident while driving was found not guilty an offense because he was not using the device for interactive purposes. Communication.
The statutory instrument giving effect to the relevant amendments to the law was tabled in Parliament on 1 February this year.
Under new legislation, even putting a mobile phone on ‘airplane mode’ while driving will not allow someone using it to claim they are following the law, with the government making it clear in the instrument statutory that the offense “will cover any device that is capable of interactive communication even if that feature is not enabled at that time.
The legislation makes it clear that the “use” of a mobile phone will now encompass all of the following:
illuminate the screen
check the time
verification of notifications
make, receive or reject a phone or internet call
send, receive or upload oral or written content
send, receive or download a photo or video
using a camera, video or sound recording
write any text
access all stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, movies, playlists, notes or messages
access an application
access the Internet.
Using a mobile phone in an emergency will still be permitted, and the law has also been extended to allow drivers to use the phone as a contactless payment device, for example at a drive-thru, toll or parking, provided the vehicle is stationary and the goods or services paid for are provided at the same time.
Hands-free mobile use, for example to make or receive voice calls, will also continue to be permitted (drivers can be prosecuted for offenses such as driving without care and attention if distracted, of course) as well as using the device for satellite navigation purposes, provided it is held in a cradle.
The minimum penalty for using a handheld mobile phone while driving will continue to be a £200 fine and six penalty points on the motorist’s driving licence, while new drivers who have held their license for two years or less will see it revoked.
The need to strengthen the law was highlighted by a recent case in which Mike van Erp – known as CyclingMikey on social media – filmed former Chelsea and England footballer Frank Lampard apparently using a phone laptop driving and holding a cup of coffee. in his other hand.
The Crown Prosecution Service, however, dropped a planned prosecution before the scheduled court date, citing lack of evidence that an offense had been committed, including presumably that Lampard had used the device for interactive communication.
> Charges against football star Frank Lampard filmed by CyclingMikey using mobile phone while driving have been dropped, CPS confirms
Similarly, in March last year, we reported that a road.cc reader who submitted footage of a van driver holding a phone to police could not be referred for prosecution, the Hertfordshire Police having said they could not because of the Barreto case.
> ‘Look – No hands!’ Van driver on mobile phone can’t be prosecuted, police say (+ video)
“We have to be realistic with what we can prove in court and unfortunately in this case we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt any offence,” the force said.
However, the driver was given a warning letter and the police “informed him that if any future incidents occur, this will be taken into account when dealing with them”.