Drivers could face a fine for just touching a mobile phone while behind the wheel – and the same goes for passengers in certain circumstances under tough new rules.
Motorists are banned from using a hand-held mobile phone or similar device, such as a tablet, in “virtually any circumstance” under strict rules that came into force on Friday.
The rule still applies to drivers sitting in stationary traffic, such as at traffic lights or in motorway queues, as well as to passengers supervising a learner driver.
Anyone caught using a handheld device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000 and six penalty points on their driving licence or a full driving ban.
Existing rules made it an offence to use an “interactive communication” function, such as texting or calling, while behind the wheel.
But the Department for Transport updated the Highway Code on Friday to include almost any use, including to take photos or videos or school through playlists, as it closed a loophole previously used by some drivers who claimed they weren’t using their device for interactive communication to escape conviction.
The new rules state motorists must not pick up a phone or similar device while driving to dial a number and then put it back in its cradle for the duration of the conversation.
The only exception is to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
There is also an exception if you are using a mobile phone or similar device to make a contactless payment – such as at a drive-thru restaurant or toll booth.
However, the vehicle must be stationary and the goods or services must be received at the same time or soon after the contactless payment.
They can also still use a device “hands-free” while driving if it’s secured in a cradle, allowing motorists to use their phone as a sat-nav.
They must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.
Drivers may also park their vehicle using a handheld remote control app or device, but the app or device must be legal and should not put other people in danger.
Motorists must also not be distracted by in-built vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs, and multi-media.
The Highway Code was updated at the end of January to include a “hierarchy of road users” and a new rule about giving way to pedestrians at junctions.
The hierarchy gives more responsibility to road users who have the potential to cause great harm - such as drivers of passenger vehicles and cars - to protect those around them.
Drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists must now give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which they are turning.
The same will go for zebra crossings, and pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.
Pedestrians will always have priority when on a zebra crossing, on a parallel crossing or at light controlled crossings when they have a green signal.
In addition, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.
The Highway Code applies in England, Scotland and Wales.
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