A loophole which can allow drivers to escape punishment for using a mobile phone if they are taking a photo or playing a game is set to be closed.
The Department for Transport is consulting on updating laws so that phone calls and texting are not the only functions banned when behind the wheel.
An exemption will be made under the plans to allow mobiles to be used for contactless payments if a vehicle is stationary and the goods or services are delivered immediately, such as for a drive-thru takeaway.
Ministers have rejected calls to go further by banning the use of hands-free functions – drivers will still be able to continue safely using devices “hands-free” while driving, such as a sat-nav secured in a cradle.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “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.”
The change in law would apply across Britain and is expected to come into effect early next year, pending the outcome of the consultation.
In 2019, there were 637 casualties on Britain’s roads – including 18 deaths and 135 serious injuries – in crashes where a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor.
The punishment for drivers caught breaking the rules on hand-held mobile use are six penalty points and a £200 fine.