People using a hand-held mobile phone in all circumstances while driving will be breaking the law, under new UK government plans unveiled by Roads Minister Baroness Vere to close a legislation loophole and improve road safety.

While it is already a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving, it is not for actions such as taking photos. Drivers have escaped punishment due to a legal loophole where such actions aren’t seen as “interactive communication”, and therefore do not fit the current definition of the offence.

Now, following a review of the offence, a consultation has been launched on bringing the law into line with modern technology – meaning drivers caught taking photos, playing games or scrolling through a playlist behind the wheel will be breaking the law on mobile phone use.

“Our roads are some of the safest in the world, but we want to make sure they’re safer still by bringing the law into the 21st century,” said Roads Minister Baroness Vere. “That’s why we’re looking to strengthen the law to make using a hand-held phone while driving illegal in a wider range of circumstances – it’s distracting and dangerous and for too long risky drivers have been able to escape punishment but this update will mean those doing the wrong thing will face the full force of the law.”

Drivers will still be able to continue using devices “hands-free” while driving, such as a sat-nav secured in a cradle. And, under the new proposals, an exemption will apply to contactless payments, if a vehicle is stationary, and if goods or services – such as a takeaway meal – are delivered immediately.

The consultation ends on 17 January 2021.

View the consultation