• Loophole to be closed, making any use of hand-held phone at the wheel an offence
  • Organisation calls for more roads policing officers to enforce updated law

ROAD SAFETY and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has welcomed the government announcement that the law on the use of a mobile phone while driving is to be strengthened from 2022. Under the revised legislation, drivers who use hand-held phones in any way while at the wheel will face a fine of £200 and six points on their licence.

Making calls or texting on a hand-held mobile while driving is already against the law, however scrolling through music playlists, playing games or taking photographs have up until now not been included – and drivers have been able to exploit the legal loophole because these activities fell outside the scope of ‘interactive communication’.

GEM warned it is now vital for more roads policing officers to be available to ensure the new law would be effective. “The update to this law is welcome, because any activity involving a mobile phone while driving is a potentially fatal distraction,” says GEM.

“The good news is that if police will no longer be required to prove that a call was being made or a message being sent at the time of an alleged offence, then it will open up the possibilities of remote detection – just as cameras already do with speeding.

“But along with all road safety groups, what we would really like are more police patrols out there looking for the drivers who continue to flout the rules, even with this strengthened deterrent. Action needs to be taken against anyone who is prepared to risk their own life – or someone else’s – by selfishly using a hand-held phone while driving.”

Specific mobile phone driving laws were introduced in December 2003 which saw motorists handed a £60 fine for an offence before rising to £100 in 2013. Fines increased to £200 and penalty points endorsements doubled in 2017, to act as a further deterrent.

GEM has a number of simple tips regarding mobile phones and driving:

1 You’re allowed to use a mobile phone when you are safely parked, with the engine off and the handbrake on and the key out.

2 Please do not pick up your phone in any other driving situation, including when you’re stationary at traffic lights or queueing in traffic.

3 The only exception to this is if it’s an emergency and it would be unsafe or impractical to stop, in which case you may call 999.

4 Don’t assume that using a hands-free kit means you have dealt with the risk. You are still allowing yourself to be distracted from the task of safe driving, and you could still be prosecuted for not being in control (an offence that carries a £100 fine and three penalty points).

5 Take a few minutes before a journey to make important calls or to check voice messages and emails. Work together with friends, family, colleagues and work contacts to remove the expectation that we should all be available, all the time.

6 Plan journeys to build in breaks from driving, where you can call, text or email or interact with social media in a safe environment.