Police in Yorkshire share plans to close legal loopholes around using phone while driving

The law could be changed in 2021The law could be changed in 2021
The law could be changed in 2021
A loophole allowing drivers to avoid punishment for hand-held phone use will be closed under plans announced by the Government.

The Department for Transport is consulting on updating laws so that phone calls and texting are not the only functions banned when behind the wheel.

It would apply across Britain and is expected to come into effect early next year, depending on the outcome of the consultation.

What does the current law say and how could this change?

What the law says now:

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The current law forbids using a mobile phone for “interactive communication” while driving.

It is an offence to use a handheld mobile phone to make a phone call, receive a phone call or send a text message or email.

It is also against the law to access social media sites or streaming services.

What could change?

Motorists would not be allowed to pick up the mobile phone or similar device in hand to perform a number of functions.

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It would be an offence to reject a call or compose text messages or emails to save in drafts, ramping up the existing restrictions.

However, the law goes further, in preventing the driver from illuminating the screen, unlocking the device and checking the time or any notifications.

Offending actions also include taking photos or videos, using the phone’s camera as a mirror, searching for music, dictating voice messages and playing a game.

The change would also make it unlawful to perform the functions with a hand-held tablet.

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The South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership is a group of bodies in the county which collaborate on roads safety and includes police, including South Yorkshire Police, and local councils, such as Sheffield Council. The group issued a statement of its own about the potential changes in the law for 2021.

A statement issued by South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership said: "It will become illegal for anyone to pick up and use their mobile phone while driving, under new legislation to be enacted next year.

"The change will end a loophole that can allow drivers to escape punishment for using a hand-held phone to take a photo or play a game.

"Mobiles will still be able to be used to pay for a drive-through takeaway.

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"And drivers will still be able to use devices hands-free under the plans, the Department for Transport said.

"At present, making phone calls and sending text messages are banned while driving.

"Ministers have rejected calls to also ban the use of hands-free function, for example using a sat-nav in a phone cradle.

"Roads minister Baroness Vere said hand-held phone use behind the wheel was "distracting and dangerous" and that "for too long risky drivers have been able to escape punishment".

"Phones behind the wheel: the law

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"Using a hand-held mobile phone or sat-nav while driving is illegal

"Any hands-free devices should be fully set up before you drive

"Police still have the power to stop you if they think you have been distracted

"The law still applies if you're stopped in traffic or queuing at lights

"You could get penalty points, a fine and/or a driving ban if you break the law"