The Mayor of London has brushed off questions around minicab and taxi driver mobile phone usage by highlighting that the new proposed legislation does not cover devices held in a cradle.
Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor of London, faced questions on the topic from the London Assembly as part of the monthly Mayor’s Question Time sessions.
London Assembly Member David Kurten asked the London Mayor via a written question: “Given the new safety law banning touching mobile phone devices when driving, how will TfL ensure that Private Hire drivers comply with this, so that they do not touch any mobile devices to take a new job, or search for directions, unless they are stationary?”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, responded saying: “I am concerned about the potential for any distraction for motorists, especially if it may impair their ability to drive safely, which can put them and other road users at risk.
“Transport for London’s (TfL’s) safety advice for drivers and other road users is clear, and aligned with the law, stating that the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is illegal.
“The law makes it an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. This only captures certain types of use. I am aware of the ongoing Government consultation which contains a proposal to expand the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving to include non-connected mobile application actions. However, at present there is no new safety law banning the touching of mobile phone devices when driving.
“The consultation document says: “The proposal will still apply only in circumstances where a driver picks up the phone to use it while driving; any change we make to the law on the use of hand-held mobile phones arising from this consultation will not affect the use of mobile phones which are positioned in a cradle and used while remaining in the cradle (for example as a satnav)”.
“Therefore, the scenario set out in your question, which is relevant to both taxi and private hire drivers, would not be in the scope of the proposed legislation that is being consulted on.”
In October it was announced that people using a hand-held mobile phone in all circumstances while driving will be breaking the law, under new government plans unveiled by Roads Minister Baroness Vere to close a legislation loophole and improve road safety.
Ministers rejected calls to go one further by banning the use of hands-free functions. Drivers will still be able to continue using devices ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav secured in a cradle.
Whilst it is already a criminal offence to use a hand-held mobile phone to call or text while driving, it is not for other actions such as taking photos. While still distracting, 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.
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 clearly breaking the law on mobile phone use.
Recognising that mobile phones are commonly used as a method of payment – such as at drive-thrus – an exemption will apply under the new proposals set out by government for contactless payments if a vehicle is stationary, and if goods or services – such as a takeaway meal – are delivered immediately.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said at the time of the announcement in October: “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.
“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.”