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All in-car mobile phone use to be banned, unless it’s ‘hands-free’

The government is seeking to make any use of a handheld smartphone illegal while driving. The move closes a loophole and should make it easier for police to prosecute drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel.

The new law will mean any driver caught using smartphone functions such as the camera, music streaming or games will be liable for a £200 fine and six points on their licence.

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It’s already against the law to text or make calls except in an emergency, although it is perfectly OK to use a smartphone connected to a hands-free system for calls, or for navigation when it’s rigidly attached to a windscreen or dashboard mount.

A change to the Highway Code will spell out the law, and make it clear that it’s illegal for drivers to use any smartphone functions even when stationary at traffic lights or in jams.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur whilst mobile phones are being held.

“By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st Century while further protecting all road users.

“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.”

Interestingly, one exemption the government does plan to include is the ability to use a phone for making payments from behind the wheel - so you can pay toll or parking charges, or even pick up your drive-thru burgers without risking prosecution.

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The new rules are being implemented on the back of a public consultation that found 81 per cent of people supported the total ban. A recent survey found that it’s mainly younger drivers who use handheld devices at the wheel.

“Picking up a mobile phone whilst driving is dangerous and we welcome this change to the law”, said AA president Ed King.

“It helps to clarify what is acceptable when using them hands-free when driving and what poses a threat.

“By making mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink driving, we are taking big steps to make our roads safer. For years, the AA has campaigned hard and helped educate drivers to the dangers from bad mobile phone use.

“To help ensure drivers get the message, we also need more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”

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