The Government has pledged to take forward, as a matter of urgency, work to review the offence of driving with a handheld mobile device. The news is revealed in today’s Government’s Response to the Committee’s Report on Road Safety: Driving while using a mobile phone, first published in August.
Use of hand-held mobile device while driving must be reviewed
Using a hand-held mobile device while driving must 'reflect the real world' where smart phones or devices are not just used for phone calls and texting but also scrolling playlists, taking photos or drafting emails, says the Response.
Ministers have ruled out extending the ban to driving with hands-free options, but the Department for Transport sets out actions it will take to deter people from using these devices while driving. This includes seeking views on the use of hands-free phones as part of the upcoming review of road traffic policing, considering amendments to the Highway Code and inclusion in road safety campaign activity.
Penalties unlikely to change
The Government will refocus efforts to help police and Crown Prosecution Service take effective enforcement action against offenders but the penalties, upgraded two years ago to a £200 fixed penalty and six penalty points, are unlikely to change.
Any change to the law would be open to consultation but ministers expect to have proposals in place by Spring 2020.
Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, said:
"The Government's decision to accept our recommendation to tighten up the law around the use of handheld mobile phones while driving is great news. The difference between interactive communications and standalone functions on our phones is a loophole that has prevented police from prosecuting drivers who continue to use their phones behind the wheel and put themselves and other road users at risk.
Our evidence showed that the risk from hands-free devices is just as real. While we’re pleased that ministers will prioritise work on handheld mobiles, this issue still needs to be addressed. We’d like the Department to keep us informed of their work to examine the risks of hands-free use and the wider context of education and enforcement.
The Department’s thoughtful response to our report demonstrates a willingness to engage with the Committee on issues of concern to the public. It pulls together several initiatives it has recently announced and work with other groups such as the public, local government and devolved administrations. I am pleased that the scrutiny work of our Cross-Party Committee is having an impact and helping to improve safety on our roads."