UK updates laws banning iPhone use while driving

Using an iPhone while driving is generally a bad idea. [Lisa Fotios/Pexels]

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The government of the United Kingdom is updating its laws about using mobile devices while driving, closing loopholes that enabled some iPhone users to still use their smartphone behind the wheel for filming videos and other reasons.

The UK, like many other countries, has laws that try to prevent drivers from using smartphones and other devices while at the wheel, to minimize the number of distractions. While existing laws have helped cut down on mobile usage, there are still some that manage to get away with it due to the law's wording.

In a law change that will be enacted in 2021, the BBC reports drivers won't be able to pick up and use a mobile phone or satellite navigation system while driving. Drivers caught breaking the rules will have six penalty points applied on their driving license, and a 200 ($258) fine, with a loss of the license possible if the driver passed their driving test within the previous two years.

The law change is due to a loophole in the wording of existing laws that make it illegal to use a device "which performs an interactive communication" while driving, which is taken to mean phone calls and messaging systems. As smartphones can be used for many other purposes, this enabled some drivers to get around the law and escape prosecution.

For example, one man was found guilty of using his smartphone to film a car accident in North London in 2018, and was convicted in 2019. The man then went on to successfully appeal the ruling due to using it as a camera, which wasn't technically against the law.

High Court judges criticized the 16-year-old law following the ruling, which prompted a reexamination and an update.

Under the new law, drivers in the UK will still be permitted to use their iPhones, but will have to do so using existing hands-free methods, such as Bluetooth systems or placing the iPhone in a holster. In some cases, such as using an iPhone to pay for goods at a drive-thru restaurant, it would be permitted to hand-hold an iPhone, provided the user is safely parked beforehand.