A new law on the use of mobile phones while driving has come into effect with an offence being triggered whenever a driver holds and uses a device, regardless of why they are holding it.
The law covers any device which is capable of interactive communication even if the functionality is not enabled at the time, such as a device being in flight mode.
The meaning of ‘using a phone’ has been expanded and covers the following specific actions:
- illuminating the screen
- checking the time
- checking notifications
- unlocking the device
- making, receiving or rejecting a telephone or internet based call
- sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content
- sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video
- utilising camera, video or sound recording
- drafting any text
- accessing any stored date such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, play lists, notes or messages
- accessing an app
- accessing the internet
There are just two occasions when drivers will be permitted to hold and use a device:
- An emergency
- Making a contactless payment at a payment terminal for goods or services providing the vehicle is stationary and the item being paid for is provided at the same time or after payment has been made. Examples of this would be paying for a car park or in a drive-through lane at a food outlet.
Using a mobile phone for navigation will continue to be legal providing it is kept in a cradle and not in the driver’s hand. Any interaction with the Satnav software can only be made while the vehicle is stationary.
The Government have said they will update both the Gov.uk guidance and the Highway Code to reduce misunderstandings about the new law, particularly on the difference between hand-held and hands-free use.