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Plan to close mobile phone driving loophole announced

Date: 01 November 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Plans to close a legal loophole that allows drivers to escape prosecution for hand-held mobile phone use behind the wheel have been announced by the government.

The existing law bans drivers from using a hand-held phone to call or text. However, drivers caught filming or taking photos have escaped punishment as lawyers have successfully argued this is not covered by the legislation as it stands.

The government says the revised legislation will mean any driver caught taking photos, browsing the internet or scrolling through a playlist while behind the wheel can be prosecuted.

A review into the law is now being instigated, with further proposals due to be in place by next spring.

This action comes alongside further measures to tackle phone use while driving, including a review of road traffic policing and wider traffic enforcement.

The current penalties in place for hand-held phone use will also be considered. However, there are no plans to ban hands-free phone use.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "We recognise that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern day life but we are also committed to making our roads safe.

"Drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone are hindering their ability to spot hazards and react in time - putting people's lives at risk."

Reacting to the government's announcement, RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: "We welcome the government's decision to review the offence with a view to closing the existing loophole. It seems very wrong that prosecutions can currently only be made if drivers are using a handheld phone for the purposes of communication when there are so many other ways of using a smartphone, such as taking pictures, filming or selecting music, which put the lives of other road users at risk.

"We know from RAC research that 17% of drivers admit to checking texts, email or social media while driving, but worryingly this is much higher among those under-25, with 35% saying they do this

"It should also be said that tightening the offence, along with increasing the penalty two years ago, is only as powerful as the level of enforcement. In the absence of technology being used to catch offenders, the decline in the number of roads police officers means there is a much lesser chance of being caught in person today than there was 10 years ago."