The current laws on mobile phones are 16 years old and they haven’t evolved with the technology, two High Court judges say.
So in July, a man who filmed a car crash two years ago using his mobile was able to challenge his conviction by saying that he wasn’t using his phone “to communicate.”
The law currently states that it’s illegal to use a device “which performs an interactive communication” whilst you’re driving. But the wording here is clearly woolly, and the government has recognised this.
The government also plans to amend the legislation regarding searching the internet and scrolling through playlists, which are some of the many things that might preoccupy drivers on their journeys, potentially causing road traffic accidents.
Recent research suggests that even if you’re hands-free, using your mobile whilst you’re at the wheel has a similar impact on your brain to drinking, making your reaction times seriously slow.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, “recognises that staying in touch with the world while travelling is an essential part of modern day life.” But he also recognises the need for roads to be safe and says that the review needs to be done “urgently” – look out for more news on this in the Spring.
What does the law actually allow?
It’s only legal to touch your phone whilst your car is safely parked. Being stuck in traffic or waiting at lights makes no difference – and if you’re supervising a learner driver, it’s still not allowed. (Although if it’s more dangerous to stop, you can make a 999 or 112 call whilst driving.)
So set up any hands-free device you want to use before driving. Make sure it’s fixed on the dash or the windscreen in good view, but not obstructing your vision, or distracting you – police can stop you if they feel you are being distracted. You can check for further details on the government’s website, https://www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law, here, if you want to find out more.
The penalty is currently an instant 6-point Fixed Penalty Notice and a £200 fine.
And what could happen if you were momentarily distracted at exactly the moment someone swerves or pulls out in front of you doesn’t bear thinking about.
It’s just not worth the risk.