The Department for Transport has announced plans to close a loophole in the law on phone use behind the wheel, so that people using a hand-held mobile while driving will be breaking the law, under all circumstances.
The existing legal loophole means that drivers using their phone for purposes other than calling or texting, such as taking a photo or playing games, are not included within the criminal offence due to a stipulation requiring ‘interactive communication’ to have taken place. The Department for Transport is launching a consultation to close this loophole and minimise driver distraction.
Road safety charity, Brake has welcomed the Government’s move to consult on and improve the offence of driving while using a hand-held mobile device, and close potential loopholes, but still wants to see the dangers of hands-free devices addressed.
The safety campaigners are highlighting last year’s Transport Select Committee report on mobile phone use when driving, which found that: “The evidence shows that using a hands-free device creates the same risks of a collision as using a handheld device, and it is therefore inappropriate for the law to condone it by omission.” The Government response to the Select Committee report did not dispute the evidence, stating “The Government acknowledges the risks associated with the use of hands-free mobile phones while driving” but went on to note that, “However, despite those risks, there are many difficulties associated with a potential ban on hands-free use.”
Commenting, director of campaigns for Brake, Joshua Harris said: “We welcome the Government’s move to improve the law on mobile phone use behind the wheel, ensuring that drivers who are caught taking photos or playing games when driving can be appropriately punished. This announcement is timely, with driver distraction an increasing scourge on our roads and a recent report revealing that 1 in 10 young drivers admit to playing games behind the wheel and a further 1 in 5 say they participate in video calls.
“When amending the law on phone use when driving, the Government must also take the opportunity to prohibit the use of hands-free devices. The current law gives the impression that it is safe to use a mobile phone with a hands-free kit when the evidence is clear that it is not. Banning hands-free devices may be challenging but we urge the Government to prioritise the lives of road users and take action now.”