The Department for Transport has announced it is to close what it called a loophole which it said allows motorists to not be prosecuted for using a hand-held mobile phone while behind the wheel.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he will “urgently take forward a review to tighten up the existing law preventing hand-held mobile use while driving.”
At present, the law prevents drivers from using a hand-held mobile phone to call or text. However, people caught filming or taking photos while driving have escaped punishment as lawyers have successfully argued this activity does not fit into the ‘interactive communication’ currently outlawed by the legislation, the Government said.
As part of a revised legislation planned, it will mean any driver caught texting, taking photos, browsing the internet or scrolling through a playlist while behind the wheel will be prosecuted for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
“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,” said Shapps. “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.”
Responding to the Government’s announcement, RAC road safety spokesperson 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.”
He added: “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.”