Any use of a handheld mobile phone while driving to become illegal next year

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Any use of a handheld mobile phone while driving is set to become illegal as the government plans to strengthen existing laws.

It is already illegal to text or make a phone call, other than in an emergency, using a handheld device while driving.

Laws will go further next year to ban drivers from using their phone to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists, or play games.

This will mean anyone caught using their handheld device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.

The Department of Transport has said research from Ipsos MORI reveals younger motorists are more likely to have used a handheld device at the wheel.

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The RAC has said its own research suggests more than one in 10 younger drivers admit to taking a photo or video while driving, while 6% say they have played a game.

Under the strengthened laws, motorists will still be able to continue using devices "hands-free" while driving, such as a sat nav, if it's secured in a cradle.

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However, they can still be charged with an offence if police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

The laws are being strengthened after a public consultation found 81% of respondents supported the proposals.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Too many deaths and injuries occur whilst mobile phones are being held.

"By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users."

The government will update the Highway Code to explain the new measures.

Careless driver using his mobile phone whilst driving a car

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It is already illegal to speak on a handheld phone while driving

The code will also be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving, making it clear that handheld mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology.

This exemption will cover, for example, places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of the road safety charity Brake, said: "Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed.

"This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones."

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