From today, 25 March, the Government has strengthened the law to make it illegal to use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel for virtually any use.
A national campaign has been launched by THINK! to raise awareness of the changes, which includes virtually any use such as taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists, online chat functions or playing games.
Since 2019 there have been 49 collisions in West Mercia where use of a mobile phone was listed as a contributory factor leading to 9 serious injuries and 40 slight injuries. Research has shown that drivers who use a mobile phone while driving are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards, fail to see road signs, fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed and are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them. If caught using your mobile phone behind the wheel you could receive up to a £1,000 fine and 6 penalty points. This could potentially lead to a newly qualified driver losing their licence (as limit is 6 points within first 2 years of passing their test).
The only exemptions that still remain are the use of handsfree while driving if secured in a cradle, allowing sat nav use. Hands free, although legal, is still not ideal as it will reduce your level of concentration while driving, putting yourself and other road users at risk. Drivers must always take responsibility for their driving and can still be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle. There is also an exemption that allows contactless payments such as those at a drive-through or on toll roads so long as the vehicle is stationary.
Supt Steph Brighton said: “Driving while distracted by a mobile phone is completely unacceptable and puts everyone on the roads at risk of serious harm. Everyone knows the use of handheld mobile phones whilst driving is against the law and we are very clear that when you get behind the wheel it is your responsibility to stay focused and alert. We welcome the new national changes as this is very clear that the law not only covers making and receiving calls but also the use of social media, messaging and streaming. It’s concerning that we still have drivers across West Mercia who are willing to risk driving whilst distracted and it is a year round commitment for us to challenge this behaviour”.