New driving law means even passengers could be fined for using their phone

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Updated legislation brings threat of £200 penalty for passengers using their phones in certain circumstances

The latest updates to motoring law mean that even passengers who look at their mobile phone could be liable for punishment.

A major change to the rules around phone use was introduced on 25 March and closed a long-standing loophole that allowed drivers to get away with dangerous behaviour such as taking photos or scrolling through playlists while driving.

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While the new law is aimed predominantly at stopping dangerous driving it also affects anyone supervising a learner driver.

Under the previous law, any passenger supervising a provisional licence holder was banned from making or receiving calls or texts and faced the same £200 fine and six penalty points handed to an offending driver.

Using a phone while supervising a learner, even for offline activities, is illegalUsing a phone while supervising a learner, even for offline activities, is illegal
Using a phone while supervising a learner, even for offline activities, is illegal | Shutterstock

Now, they also face the same restrictions as any driver, effectively banning them from using their phone.

The law was changed after authorities ruled the previous wording - laid out 17 years ago - was outdated and failed to cover the huge range of functions offered by modern smartphones.

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Previously, it stopped the use of “interactive communication”, such as making calls or sending text messages or emails. However, it didn’t cover other offline uses, such as taking photos or videos or even playing games.

The new wording makes it an offence to use a phone or other handheld device for non-connected mobile application actions while driving, including while stopped at traffic lights or in traffic jams.

That means everything from searching for downloaded music to checking the time or rejecting a call is now against the law and punishable with a £200 fine and six penalty points.

For drivers who have held their licence for less than two years, that is enough to earn them an instant disqualification and force them to resit their test.

The only exceptions are when making an emergency 999 call or using a phone app to pay for services at locations such as drive-through restaurants or road tolls.

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