A leading road safety and breakdown organisation is calling on the government to update the wording of the law regarding the use of a mobile phone while driving.
The current law states that a mobile phone or device is ‘to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function’.
But GEM Motoring Assist argues that mobile phone use has evolved beyond the legislation introduced in 2003.
The organisation is urging the government to make the change after a driver successfully appealed a charge for the offence, claiming he “wasn’t using it to communicate”.
The High Court overturned the conviction of Ramsey Baretto, who had been caught filming the scene of a collision as he drove by.
Lady Justice Thirlwall stated: “The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving. It prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communication (and holding it at some stage during the process)… It follows that the activity of the respondent did not come within Regulation 110 and the Crown Court was right to quash the conviction.”
‘An absurd situation’
Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM, is angered by the successful appeal and is pressing the government for immediate action. “The government’s failure to bring legislation up to date is putting lives at risk.
“We now have an absurd situation where the wording of the law is insufficient and cumbersome, only stating ‘interactive communication’ as an illegal use of a mobile phone when driving, when we know it is clearly unsafe to use your mobile phone for any purpose when driving.
“Although penalties have increased, the specific wording of the law governing mobile phones and driving has not changed for 16 years. We are writing to the government urging them to update the legislation at the earliest opportunity. This will ensure it is fit for purpose, and will avoid further compromise to road safety.”
Using a mobile phone when driving: the law
It is illegal to hold a phone or sat-nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. Drivers must have hands-free access, such as a Bluetooth handset, voice control, a dashboard holder, a windscreen mount or a built-in sat-nav.
You can receive six penalty points and a £200 fine if you’re caught using a hand-held mobile phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your test in the last two years.
You can also be taken to court, where you might be banned from driving or receive a maximum fine of £1,000.