It will soon be illegal to scroll through playlists on your mobile phone while driving due to new laws recently announced by the Department of Transport. This represents a marked departure from the existing laws, which only ban the making or receiving of calls and text messages.

The Law and Mobile Phones – England and Wales

If you are caught using your mobile phone while driving, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We offer expert legal advice to clients across England and Wales.

The current law regarding mobile phones and driving

At the moment, the law says that drivers cannot use a hand-held interactive communication device while driving. Specifically, the driver must hold the device in their hand for a prosecution to succeed. He or she must also use it for an ‘interactive communication function’, be it a phone call or sending/reading a text message.

Calls for the law to be changed

During a public consultation in 2020, 81% of people said they supported the idea of strengthening the current laws. This has prompted legislative changes, the details of which were recently announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Going forward, drivers can be prosecuted for the standalone use of a phone, as well as interactive communications.

What does this mean in practical terms?

So what does this mean in practical terms? Firstly, it is still illegal to make and receive phone calls while driving, and to send and read text messages. It will also be illegal to use a phone for standalone functions while driving. This includes searching for music, taking photos or videos and playing games.

What is allowed?

However, certain functions are permitted in very specific circumstances. You can still use your phone as a sat nav, provided it is secured in a cradle. You can also use your device to make a contactless payment where the goods are received immediately and the vehicle is stationary, such as at a drive-through.

What if I’m stuck in traffic?

Being stationary in traffic or at traffic lights still counts as ‘driving’. Therefore, you cannot use your phone for any standalone functions in these situations, unless it is an emergency. If you do, you can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for six penalty points and a £200 fine. Or, your case can be dealt with by the court.

When will the new rules come in?

Parliament must first approve changes to the Highway Code, but it is thought the news laws will be implemented during 2022.

Highway Code Update – England and Wales

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