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Using a mobile phone at the wheel: the legal loophole that’s being closed

2-minute read

Corissa Nunn

28 October 2020

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Do you drive for work? You’ll be glad to hear that the roads should soon become a safer place for tradespeople.

On 17 October 2020, the government announced a public consultation period for the proposed updates to UK law. Let’s take a look at the situation today and what’s set to change.

Why is there a problem with UK driving legislation as it stands?

Some aspects of mobile phone use are already ruled out when you’re in charge of a vehicle. As you might expect, you’re not allowed to use your phone to send a text or make a call.

But an outdated loophole means that technically, picking up a mobile and using it to take photos and videos, search for stored music, or play games offline isn’t illegal.

Common sense aside – this is a rather large loophole that leaves tradespeople and other self-employed people who drive for work at risk.

Last year 18 deaths and 135 serious injuries were reported in accidents where the driver was using a mobile phone, according to the RAC.

The RAC have also found that 13 per cent of drivers aged 25 to 44 say they make or receive video calls while driving, and 9 per cent of drivers aged 17 to 24 admit to playing games on their phone.

To tackle this dangerous behaviour, the Department for Transport recently announced plans to close the loophole in the legislation.

What are the proposed changes for 2021?

The government wants to spell out the offence of using a mobile phone while driving to include 'standalone mode functions as well as the existing interactive communication functions'.

Anyone who’s caught breaking the rules would face six penalty points on their driving licence and a £200 fine.

At the same time, there are plans to add an exemption that will allow drivers to use their phone to make contactless payments using their phone when it makes sense. For example, at a drive thru takeaway.

Any changes that come into force will be brought through into the Highway Code.

The public consultation period will run until 17 January 2021. Want to weigh in? You can share your thoughts with the Department for Transport via this page on

Will the new law rule out using hands-free phone functions?

No – but as many of us know, hands-free doesn’t always mean distraction-free. This issue has come up in parliament a few times in the past, so the law might eventually change on that front too.

How do you feel about this shift? What role does driving play for you and your trade? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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