Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Tom Payne Trans­port Cor­re­spon­dent

DRIV­ERS face a to­tal ban on touch­ing their mo­bile phones at the wheel.

Un­der ex­ist­ing law they can be pros­e­cuted only if they use hand­held de­vices to call or text.

But from early next year this will ex­tend to touch­ing phones for any rea­son – such as to take pic­tures, browse the in­ter­net or scroll through a mu­sic playlist. Mo­torists will still be able to use their de­vices as a sat­nav, but only if hands-free.

Mo­bile pay­ments at drive-through restau­rants will also be al­lowed.

Hands-free video calls and stream­ing videos are al­ready banned.

Of­fend­ers will be hit with six points and a £200 fine.

‘The clos­ing of this loop­hole is very wel­come and re­flects the mul­ti­tude of ways driv­ers can use hand­held phones,’ said Ni­cholas Lyes of

the RAC. ‘ Use of hand-held mo­bile phones at the wheel con­tin­ues to rep­re­sent a very real road safety risk, so it’s clear more needs to be done to make this as so­cially un­ac­cept­able as drink-driv­ing.

‘ It’s im­por­tant that along­side this change to the law, the Gov­ern­ment looks se­ri­ously at other op­tions that can help en­force the law, which should in­clude new cam­era tech­nol­ogy that can de­tect dif­fer­ent types of hand-held mo­bile phone use at the wheel.’

The Mail’s End The Mo­bile Mad­ness cam­paign has called for tougher penal­ties for driv­ers who reck­lessly put the lives of oth­ers at risk.

To bet­ter en­force the law, High­ways Eng­land has been tri­alling the use of high­def­i­ni­tion cam­eras that can take pic­tures of mo­torists through their wind­screens.

Fit­ted to over­head gantries at se­cret lo­ca­tions, they use al­go­rithms and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to de­ter­mine whether the pic­tures show driv­ers are us­ing their phones. If the tri­als are a suc­cess, im­ages could be sent to po­lice to is­sue no­tice of pros­e­cu­tion let­ters.

High­ways Eng­land has also been us­ing high-seated HGV cabs driven by po­lice to help catch 250 of­fend­ers a month.

Plans for a blan­ket ban on us­ing mo­biles while driv­ing were mooted last Novem­ber. Af­ter an 11-month con­sul­ta­tion, the Depart­ment for Trans­port has agreed that driv­ers should face pros­e­cu­tion for touch­ing their phone for any rea­son.

The min­istry has vowed to bring in the change from early next year.

It fol­lows mount­ing con­cern that hand­held mo­bile use has led to a ‘plateau­ing’ of deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries. Of­fi­cial fig­ures show the rate has re­mained un­changed since 2010 de­spite sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in vehicle safety.

Five peo­ple die on the roads and 68 are se­ri­ously in­jured ev­ery day and in­ci­dents are in­creas­ingly a re­sult of driv­ers be­ing dis­tracted by their mo­biles.

Re­search by the Univer­sity of Leeds and com­mis­sioned by the DfT shows the vast ma­jor­ity of mo­bile in­ter­ac­tions in­volve driv­ers touch­ing their phones.

The study, looked at footage of 51 driv­ers over 765 trips and ob­served 662 mo­bile phone in­ter­ac­tions.

Leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced in 2017 af­ter our cam­paign high­lighted a spate of deaths caused by mo­torists call­ing or tex­ting while driv­ing. Al­though the new rules helped deter of­fend­ers, driv­ers have es­caped pu­n­ish­ment be­cause the law tar­geted only those us­ing phones for ‘in­ter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion’.

There have also been con­cerns over de­clin­ing num­bers of traf­fic po­lice avail­able to en­force the rules.

Chief Con­sta­ble An­thony Bang­ham, of the Na­tional Po­lice Chiefs Coun­cil, said: ‘Us­ing a mo­bile phone while driv­ing is in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous and be­ing dis­tracted at the wheel can change lives for­ever. Po­lice will take ro­bust ac­tion against those us­ing a hand-held mo­bile phone il­le­gally and pro­pos­als to make the law clearer are wel­come.’ A spokesman for High­ways Eng­land said: ‘We are ex­plor­ing how tech­nol­ogy could be used to de­tect when driv­ers are not giv­ing the road their full at­ten­tion, such as us­ing a mo­bile phone. Al­though our roads are amongst the safest in the world, our am­bi­tion is that there should be no deaths on our roads.’

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