Road safety campaigners believe mobile phone usage on the road “should be as unacceptable as drink driving” as the government sets out to close a legal loophole that allows drivers to take photos and access media.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that an urgent review of the existing laws would take place on the recommendations of a recent report by the Commons Transport Select Committee.
The tighter legislation which could arrive in early 2020 will prevent motorists from using smartphones in any capacity as the government looks to keep up with the pace of mobile innovation.
Currently, drivers can use smartphones to take photos and scroll through music playlists, but a case involving a 51-year-old Londoner has brought the law into sharp focus.
Ramsey Barreto was found guilty of filming footage of a road crash in north London in 2017 but was able to appeal the prosecution as he was not using the smartphone for communication purposes.
“This review will look to tighten up the existing law to bring it into the 21st century, preventing reckless driving and reduce accidents on our roads,” Mr Shapps said.
The new law will mean any motorist caught touching their phones could be fined £200 and receive six points on their licence.
The dangers posed by mobile usage are highlighted by recent figures showing smartphones contributed to almost 700 casualties on UK roads in 2018.
The committee’s report wants to go a step further by banning hands-free usage, but the Department for Transport is not planning to introduce that measure next year.