From this Friday onwards, laws surrounding driving whilst using your mobile phone are set to be significantly tightened.
You will no longer be able to use your mobile phone while driving for any reason (unless it’s an emergency), including using it to check the time, rejecting an inbound call or even to merely unlocking it. In addition, you will not be allowed to use your phone while stopped at traffic lights, or stuck in a traffic jam.
Furthermore, your license can also be revoked under the new laws – which will force you to retake your driving test, or face a driving ban. Any drivers caught using their phone within two years of completing their test will face an immediate revocation of their license and will have to pass their test again.
There are certain circumstances in which you can use your phone in a vehicle, however. These include making a payment at a terminal, such as a drive-thru or car park entrance (so long as your vehicle is stationary). You can also use your phone in an emergency, for example, to dial 999 in a situation where stopping would not be feasible or realistic.
As of right now, it is not illegal to use your mobile phone to take pictures or scroll through a music playlist on your phone while driving – however, this will all change on March 25th. Essentially, any use of your mobile phone that may take your concentration away from the road, even in a miniscule capacity, will be prohibited.
Specialist on motoring laws and solicitor at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Paul Loughlin, said: “While this change is a very welcome development in ensuring safer roads, there will be many people left scratching their heads as to why this change in the law didn’t happen sooner.
“These laws were last updated nearly twenty years ago. The most recent public consultation established that 81% of people support the tightening up of these rules.
"Many drivers have ingrained habits when behind the wheel and unfortunately some don’t hesitate to check their phones, often below the line of sight for any passing police officer to notice.”
The belief is that the new laws will act as a deterrent to anyone using their mobile phone while driving. According to a survey by the government in 2017, 1.1% of drivers were seen to have been using a mobile phone whilst their vehicle was moving.
To add to this, the government led campaign group THINK! found that you are four times more likely to be in a car collision if you use your mobile phone while driving.
The changes have been made to reflect the development of mobile devices over the last 20 years. As they now have far more features than previously, they’re being used more often – including in cars. The initial laws were established back in 2003 – four years before the release of the first iPhone model.