Motorists are being warned tougher rules on using a mobile phone while driving will come into force next month.

The Department for Transport said new laws will ban drivers from taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists or playing games from March 25.

The move follows recent changes to the Highway Code and closes a previous loophole that allowed drivers to operate their phone for some actions. Previous laws dated back to the pre-smart phone era.

It comes as Norfolk police support #StandingUpForHangingUp, a national campaign to crack down on motorists using phones while at the wheel.

Drivers face points and a fine if caught under the new rules, so here’s what you need to know about the changes.

How are the rules changing?

Though it’s already illegal to text or make a phone call other than in an emergency from a hand-held device when behind the wheel, the changes take things a step further.

It bans drivers from using their phones for other reasons, such as when taking a picture, recording a video or playing a game.

It also covers scrolling through music playlists when sat in traffic, as well as even checking the time or viewing notifications. You could be charged even if you’re caught unlocking the phone or causing the screen to illuminate.

Eastern Daily Press: Using a mobile phone while drivingUsing a mobile phone while driving (Image: Archant)

Do I face penalty points if I’m caught?

Yes. Anyone caught using their hand-held device behind the wheel now faces a £200 penalty and six points on their licence.
That also means that if a driver is caught for this offence within two years of passing their test, they could have their licence revoked.

Could I use my phone if I’m sitting in stationary traffic?

No. The Highway Code is also being revised to make things clearer, stating that being in stationary traffic still counts as driving.

This is the same case for waiting at traffic lights. Using your phone at these times is illegal, unless in very exceptional circumstances, such as calling the emergency services.

Will I still be able to use my phone as a sat-nav?

Yes, but it must be ‘hands-free’, so secured in a cradle when being used. However, drivers must still be in proper control of their vehicle and police could charge them if they find them to be driving irresponsibly.

What about making contactless payments?

The government has added an exemption to the rules with regards to contactless payments. It means that drivers won’t be charged for using their phones when stationary to make payments when at certain areas, such as entering a toll road or at a drive-through restaurant.

Eastern Daily Press: Customers at Wisbech McDonalds on the first day of its drive-thru reopening on June 3. Picture: Terry HarrisCustomers at Wisbech McDonalds on the first day of its drive-thru reopening on June 3. Picture: Terry Harris (Image: Terry Harris 07747606996)

What have Norfolk and Suffolk police said?

Chief inspector Jon Chapman, head of the joint Norfolk and Suffolk roads and armed policing team, said: "Driving whilst using a mobile is extremely dangerous and one of the four main contributory factors of fatal or serious collision.

“No matter what your driving ability, glancing down at your phone means you are not aware of what is happening around you. It only takes a second for circumstances to change and for you to be involved in a collision, either with another road user, or a pedestrian.

"Also, a common misconception is that a hands-free device is a safe option. We have seen that this can be equally as distracting.”

Eastern Daily Press: Chief Inspector Jon Chapman.Chief Inspector Jon Chapman. (Image: Archant)

What are police doing on the region’s roads?

Extra patrols using both marked and unmarked police cars and motorcycles, all fitted with cameras to obtain evidence to prosecute drivers, are being carried out on the county’s roads as part of the current crackdown.

Motorists can also be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention for using their phone when behind the wheel, particularly if caught filming, watching videos or taking pictures for example.

Between February 2021 and January 2022 Norfolk police issued 126 traffic offence reports to motorists caught using a mobile phone whilst driving.