We all know that it is dangerous to do anything that might distract you from the road while you are driving. Whether it’s eating a sandwich, changing the radio station or taking a selfie, if you are not paying proper attention to the road, it is a legal offence. However, it is not currently illegal to take a photo or video on your phone – unless it could be proved that it interfered with your driving.
Current laws only prohibit any kind of communication on your phone. This includes calls, text messages, sending an email or checking social media, but not taking pictures or even playing a game. So, technically, as long as you are paying attention to the road and driving safely, it is still legally permissible for you to take a photo or video – or anything else that doesn’t count as “active communication”. There is, however, a consultation underway that will make it illegal just having your phone in your hand – regardless.
The new rules will make life much clearer for law enforcers. In addition to the existing restrictions, it will be illegal to hold your phone to:
- Illuminate the screen
- Unlock your device
- Check the time or notifications
- Reject a call
- Compose messages via text or email to save in drafts and send later
- Take photos or videos
- Use the camera as a mirror
- Search for music stored on the phone
- Search for images stored on the phone
- Dictate voice messages
- Read a downloaded book
- Play a downloaded game.
If the consultation is passed, anyone falling foul of the new rules could be liable to a fine of £200 and six points on their licence. However, if you passed your test in the last two years, the penalty will be even harsher and could result in you losing your licence.
There is no doubt that the new law is a logical move and anyone who prioritises their safety and the wellbeing of other road users will be sure to agree. The consultation and subsequent adding of the law to the Highway Code will simply clarify the restrictions and prevent unscrupulous drivers from abusing the “loophole” to get away with breaking the law.
There will, however, be two exceptions to the rule. You are permitted to have your phone in your hand to make a contactless payment for goods or services that will be supplied or provided immediately. From a car wash to drive-through restaurants or toll roads, if the service or product will be given instantly and provided the vehicle is stationary at the time of payment, it will NOT be an offence to have your phone in your hand. The other exception is to call emergency services if it is not possible or practical to stop.