New driving law means six points for skipping a song on your phone

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Almost two decades after the introduction of the mobile use while driving law, it is strengthening itself for a new era of smartphones (Photo: iStockphoto)

The government is preparing to toughen the law on cell phone use while driving after revealing new figures on road fatalities.

Seventeen people were killed in crashes involving drivers distracted by a phone last year, and nearly 500 were injured, many seriously, in similar crashes.

Under current law, drivers are prohibited from texting or making calls other than in emergencies, a wording that dates back to the days when phones were more limited when the rules were first introduced. first introduced in 2003.

Starting next year, a change in the law will mean that any use, including taking a photo or video, scrolling through a playlist, or changing songs, will be a criminal offense.

Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving will be fined £ 200 fixed and six points on their license.

Drivers will still be allowed to use satellite navigation on their cell phones, but only if they are secured in a cradle.

Motorists will be informed that they must take responsibility for their driving and that they can be prosecuted if the police find that they are not in proper control of their vehicle.

Businessman texting on his cell phone

The law is being updated to reflect changes in mobile phone technology over the past 20 years (Photo: Shutterstock / Gutesa)

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said: “By making it easier to prosecute people who use their phones illegally while driving, we are ensuring that the law enters the 21st century while further protecting all road users.”

A public consultation which revealed that 81% of those questioned supported the proposals aimed at cracking down on the use of the telephone while driving.

The Highway Code will also be revised to clarify that standing in traffic counts as driving and using a cell phone at traffic lights or in traffic jams is illegal, except in very limited circumstances.

Joshua Hughes, head of the complex injuries team at London law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said the result of drivers distracted by phones “can be catastrophic” and “too many deaths and injuries result “.

Grant Shapps MP

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the changes will take effect next year. (Photo: Reuters)

He described the stricter rules introduced as “an easy win” because they will close a “loophole” that allows drivers to escape prosecution for scrolling through music or playing games on their phones.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said the law had not kept pace with the technological sophistication of cellphones, allowing people to use them for purposes such as changing songs to avoid the maximum penalty.

AA President Edmund King has said that phone use while driving must become “as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving”.

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