UK Tightens Law to Ban Any Hand-Held Mobile Use Behind Wheel

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
November 19, 2021 Updated: November 19, 2021

Taking photos or scrolling through playlists with mobile phones while driving will be banned, including when stuck at red lights or in traffic, the UK government said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government is “ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users” by “making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel.”

Current law already prohibits drivers from making phone calls or texting using a hand-held device while driving unless in an emergency. From 2022, all use of hand-held devices will be banned behind wheel, including taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists, or playing games.

Being stationary in traffic counts as driving, therefore, hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances, the Department for Transport said.

Drivers caught using a hand-held device will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on their licence.

There will be an exemption for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary, such as at a toll station or a drive-through restaurant.

Devices can continue to be used “hands-free,” including as a sat-nav, as long as they are secured in a cradle, but motorists must take responsibility for their driving and can be prosecuted if the police find them not in proper control of their vehicle.

In a public consultation regarding the proposed measures, almost 81 percent of the respondents supported widening the scope of the ban on using hand-held mobile phones.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of Brake—the road safety charity, welcomed the announcement of the new rules.

“Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by [the] government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed,” she said in a statement.

“This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes—we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention,” she added.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said the law has been outdated as mobile phones became more sophisticated, allowing some drivers to use their phones without penalty.

“While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer,” he said.

AA President Edmund King has also welcomed the news and called for “more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”

PA contributed to this report.

Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.