Regulations governing use of mobile devices by drivers to be given a 21st century overhaul


04 February 2022

From next month, stricter measures will be introduced to prevent the use of mobile phones and other interactive devices whilst behind the wheel. The measures will effectively outlaw all mobile phone use while driving, save for in some very limited exceptions. 

The new measures, contained in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022, will prohibit drivers from performing any of the following actions: illuminating the screen; checking the time; checking notifications; unlocking the device; making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet based call; sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content; sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video; utilising camera, video, or sound recording functionality; drafting any text; accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages; accessing an application; and accessing the internet. 

The rules apply whether the vehicle is moving or stationary in traffic, or waiting at traffic lights, and a breach may result in a fine of £200 and up to six penalty points. It does however create two exceptions; the first allowing drivers to make contactless payments using their devices at drive-thrus, and the second to allow drivers to call the emergency services when there is no opportunity to safely pull over.

What has prompted the changes?

Currently drivers are only prohibited from using a phone or device (whilst held) for the purpose of a call or other interactive communication, a position confirmed by the Court of Appeal in the case of DPP v Barreto

In this case, Mr Barreto was driving past the scene of a serious collision. He was observed by a police officer to be holding his phone up to the driver’s window to film the scene as he drove past. The Court considered arguments on the interpretation of Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, which prohibit the use while driving, a motor vehicle of hand-held mobile telephones or other interactive communication devices, when performing an interactive communication function. Following an earlier decision in R v Eldarf, the court found the words “interactive communication” to mean an external communication function, as opposed to an internal one, meaning that a driver using other functions of a mobile phone or device besides calls or messaging would not fall foul of the regime. 

The new legislation, which comes into force on 25 March 2022, seeks to resolve this unsatisfactory position by updating the rules for the modern age. It will be the first major update of the regime since the advent of smartphones.

Commenting on the new rules, Edmund King, AA president, said: "The AA has long campaigned to toughen up these rules, and we welcome this announcement. This is a much needed upgrade of the law to help make our roads safer. Mobile phones offer many distractions and this sends a clear message that picking them up to use them will not be tolerated."

What does your mobile phone policy say?

You must ensure that your company’s policy sets our clearly the expectation that you have of your drivers in relation to mobile phone (or any other device) use when they are driving. You also need to ensure that your drivers are aware of the policy. Those with a vocational entitlement on their licence would be called to a driver conduct hearing and risk having this entitlement suspended (on a first time offence) for a period of two to four weeks, if they commit the offence of driving whilst using a mobile telephone. Repeat offending by drivers within your company may raise suspicions with the Traffic Commissioner that there is an issue within the business and the company could be called to a Public Inquiry.

For further information on mobile phone use whilst driving and mobile phone policies please contact James Macfarlane or Julie Gowland on 01603 232300.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at February 2022.

Authors

James Macfarlane

Trainee Solicitor

+44 (0)1603 542670

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