Use of a mobile phone or hand-held device whilst driving – important changes in the law that you need to know

Use of a mobile phone or hand-held device whilst driving – important changes in the law that you need to knowMost of us know that it is illegal to use your mobile phone or hand-held device to make a call or send a message whilst driving.  But what has not been clear is whether it is an offence to take a photo or check the time on your phone or hand-held device.

There are going to be changes to the law which when in force, will make it illegal for drivers to use their phone or hand-held devices for many of their functions.

The new law, also known as regulations, will come into force on 25th March 2022 [called the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2022.] These regulations change the rules in how using a mobile phone or hand-held device in certain circumstances whilst driving, can be a criminal offence.

The offence

It is an offence for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a road if he or she is using a mobile phone or a hand-held device (as described in the regulations above). It is also an offence to do so if you are supervising a provisional licence holder, even though you are not the driver.

Current law

At the moment, the law says that a mobile phone or hand-held device cannot be used while driving a vehicle. A hand-held device is known as a device other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.

What is a hand-held device?  Like a mobile phone, a hand-held device is treated as hand-held.  This includes tablets, smart watches or anything similar.  But it must be used to send and receive information.

An interactive communication function means that information (or data) must be in the process of being sent or received.  Some examples of interactive communication functions include:

  • Sending or receiving oral or written messages;
  • Sending or receiving emails;
  • Sending or receiving still or moving images;
  • Providing access to the internet.

In simple terms: you cannot drive a vehicle whilst using a mobile phone or hand-held device whilst making or receiving a phone call/message; sending or receiving an email or checking out the internet.

But there are going to be important changes which you need to know.

New law

It will soon be illegal to use your mobile phone or hand-held device whilst driving a vehicle if you do any of the following:

  1. Illuminating the screen;
  2. Checking the time;
  3. Checking notifications;
  4. Unlocking the device;
  5. Making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet-based call;
  6. Sending, receiving, or uploading oral or written contact;
  7. Sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video;
  8. Utilising camera, video or sound recording functionality;
  9. Drafting any text;
  10. Accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos,

films, playlists, notes or messages;

  1. Accessing an application; or
  2. Accessing the internet.

This mean that you cannot use your mobile phone or hand-held device to perform most of its basic functions whilst you are driving.  Remember, you must be holding your device when doing any of the above for it to be a criminal offence: using your mobile phone through your car’s Bluetooth system will not be a criminal offence under this law.  However, being distracted whilst you are driving could be a different criminal offence, such as careless driving.

Defences

A device can be used in certain circumstances. These circumstances are calling the emergency services or acting in response to a genuine emergency if it is unsafe or impracticable for you to stop driving in order to make the call.

It is also not illegal to perform a remote-controlled parking function in particular circumstances.

Devices can also be used for a contactless payment made at a contactless payment terminal.

Penalty

The offence carries six penalty points with a maximum fine of £1000 (or £2500 if a goods vehicle or vehicle adapted to carry more than eight passengers). In the case of a person who has had a full driving licence for less than two years, this would mean the loss of a licence.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact Serena Joshi, an Associate Solicitor in the Motoring Law Department, on 0121 726 9116 or by email: s.joshi@viennakang.co.uk.

Vienna Kang Advocates is a firm specialising in Serious Crime, Road Transport Law and Motoring Law.  If you have a matter which you would like to discuss with any of our specialist lawyers, please get in touch with us to arrange a free, confidential chat using our contact form.