Drivers will be banned from using hand-held mobile phones as the government closes a loophole that allows motorists to check social media.
Calling and texting on hand-held phones while driving is already illegal, unless there is an emergency. But the changes mean it will soon be against the law for motorists to use a hand-held phone for virtually any reason behind the wheel.
From 2022, offenders face a £200 fine and six points on their licence for using a device to take photos or videos, play games or scroll through playlists.
The Highway Code will be updated to make it clear that being stationary in traffic counts as driving – and that handheld mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.
Motorists will still be allowed to use hands-free devices such as sat-navs and mobile phones if they are secured in a cradle. But they can face charges if police find them not in proper control of their vehicle.
The measures are being brought in following a public consultation showing overwhelming support for proposals to strengthen the law.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur whilst mobile phones are being held.
“By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st Century while further protecting all road users.”
The move follows years of campaigning from relatives of people killed by drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.
Mary Williams, chief executive of the road safety charity Brake, said the changes would were “very welcome” –especially “by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones”.
Motoring organisations have also welcomed the move. The RAC’s road safety spokesman Simon Williams called for the new law to be “vigorously enforced”.
He said: “As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.
“Our research suggests that more than one-in-10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% say they have played a game.
“While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”
President of the AA Edmund King said: “By making mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, we are taking big steps to make our roads safer. For years, the AA has campaigned hard and helped educate drivers to the dangers from bad mobile phone use.
“To help ensure drivers get the message, we also need more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies