UK mobile phone driving laws explained by the RAC
Under current rules, drivers can only be prosecuted for “interactive communication” behind the wheel such as texting. However, a new 2021 rule change will bring the law in line with modern technology meaning drivers can now be penalised for taking photos or even changing a song.
However, motoring lawyer Nick Freeman has warned the rule change could be an “own goal” for the Government.
He has warned the new policy will restrict drivers’ ability to record other drivers breaking the law, footage which could be used as evidence for investigations.
He said: “This new law means drivers will no longer be able to film other motorists using their phones in an unlawful way.
“Traditionally, this kind of footage – usually taken in a queue or at a red light – has provided the basis for countless successful prosecutions.
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“In fact over the years the police have actively exhorted the public to use their phones this way to ensnare law-breaking drivers.”
“But since filming or taking pictures will no longer be lawful, there`ll be a massive reduction in footage from the public.
“As a result, far fewer dangerous drivers will be brought to justice. In short, it is the most spectacular – and hazardous – own goal.”
Mr Freeman has previously used the argument of non-interactive communication in some of his previous legal cases.
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There were some calls to completely ban mobile phone use behind the wheel but ministers rejected this plan.
Drivers will still be able to use hands-free devices behind the wheel such as sat-nav apps in a cradle.
Drivers are also able to use their phones to pay for takeaway meals or services as long as the car is stationary.
Mr Freeman added: “The thinking is sound. It’s based on the idea that using a mobile phone for any reason at the wheel is dangerous and distracting.
“But the Government is introducing this law in isolation. Without thinking of how to replace the way prosecutions have benefited from footage provided by drivers.”
Mr Freeman said the ideal scenario to counter the problem would be to put more police officers on the streets.
However, with officer numbers dropping dramatically over the past decade he has since called for a new way to police the roads.
Mr Freeman has called for a “penalty which policies itself” which would “obliterate” the problem overnight.
He said: “What we need is a penalty which polices itself. The only way to do this is by introducing much tougher penalties.
“Using a mobile phone behind the wheel presents the same level of distraction as drink driving.
“So we need to bring the punishment for illegal phone use in line with this – which is a driving ban of [at least] a year – because it presents the same level of distraction.
“That would obliterate a dangerous and serious problem overnight.
“ What we have is a Government shooting itself in the foot.
“Without the help of other drivers to apprehend lawbreakers, we must find some alternative way to stop people indulging in the dangerous practice of using a handheld phone to chat, text or use the internet when they are driving.”
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