MOBILE PHONE LAWS: The Highway Code mobile phone law became more severe from March 1st 2017.
It is against the law to use a hand-held phone, or any similar device, while driving or riding a motorcycle.
The same rules apply even when you stop at traffic lights or your vehicle is queuing in slow traffic.
You are also breaking the law if you use a hand-held phone or similar device while supervising a learner driver or rider.
The UK Highway Code states that drivers and riders must stay in full control of their vehicle at all times. The police can stop you while driving if they believe you do not have control because of a distraction. This includes circumstances such as using in-car devices like the radio or sat nav.
Note: In some cases you also risk a prosecution and a disqualification from driving.
Using a Mobile Phone in Your Vehicle: Legally
There are a few occasions when you can legally use a mobile phone while driving. The driver or rider can use a handheld phone:
- After you have parked your vehicle safely.
- To call 999 or 112 in an emergency if it is unsafe or impractical to stop the vehicle.
Mobile Phone Driving Penalties
It has been illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving since 2003. But, from March the 1st 2017 the mobile phone driving penalties doubled.
The penalties for using mobile phone while driving gets worse your case goes to court. You could get disqualified from driving or riding and you could get the maximum fine of £1,000. The fine can increase to £2,500 for drivers of buses or goods vehicles.
Government Closes Mobile Phone Loophole
A legal loophole has allowed some drivers to escape prosecution for the use of a hand-held mobile phone, even while behind the wheel. But, confirmation to introduce extra legislation to close it came in November 2019.
The announcement came after the offenders escaped punishment – despite police officers catching them filming or taking photographs while driving.
Their lawyers made a case that the activity did not fit into the ‘interactive communication’ that legislation outlaws.
The revision in the mobile phone laws means any driver can be prosecuted for (while behind the steering wheel):
- Browsing the internet
- Scrolling through a playlist
- Taking photographs
Note: Using a ‘hands free access’ phone while driving is not currently illegal in the United Kingdom. But, the police can prosecute drivers who lose control of their vehicle due to any type of distraction.
Changing the Highway Code
The Department for Transport published further updates in November 2021. As a result, new prosecution regulations will strengthen the existing laws and make it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving or riding… for almost ‘ANY’ circumstances.
So, to ensure you have hands-free access while driving a car or riding a motorbike, you will need to be using (any):
- Bluetooth headset
- Built-in sat nav
- Dashboard holder or mat
- Voice command
- Windscreen mount
Important: The changes to the Highway Code will clarify that hand-held phone use at traffic lights or in traffic jams is an illegal activity. You must also make sure that the device you are using does not block your view of the road and the traffic ahead.
Facts about Mobile Phones and Driving
It is illegal for a driver to use a handheld mobile when driving to follow a map, to read a text, or to check media messages. Receiving 6 points within the first two years of passing your test means you will lose your driving licence.
It is not illegal to use a hands free device such as for navigation. But, you may get pulled over by the police if they feel it distracts you and affects your ability to drive with safety.
In actuality, research shows:
- Drivers are 4 times more likely to get involved in a crash if they use a phone while driving.
- Driver reaction times are twice as slow if you text and drive than if you drink drive. This increases to 3 times slower if you use a handheld phone.
- Even careful drivers get distracted by a phone call or a text message. A split-second lapse in full concentration can result in a serious road accident.
Fact: Drivers using a handheld or hands-free mobile phone are somewhat slower at recognising hazards and reacting to them.
Using a Mobile Phone as a Sat Nav
Most modern vehicles have a dedicated sat nav device fitted as standard. But, there are ways of using a mobile phone as satellite navigation and staying within the law. Follow these driving safety rules if you want to use a mobile phone for sat nav while driving.
Pre Program the Route
Pre-programming a route means factoring in all the planned stops. Do this ‘before you start the engine‘. You can select multiple destinations with most hi-tech sat nav applications. You must pull over and stop the vehicle to reprogramme the route.
Use a Phone Holder for Car
Using a car phone holder may help drivers concentrate on the road as well as the sat nav screen. Even so, you might get pulled over by the police if they feel the holder is obstructing your view.
Use Road Traffic Signs
Using the ‘old-fashioned’ Highway Code roads signs is still an option – and not against the law. It is a reliable way to find you way around the streets and highways.
THINK! Advice and Mobile Phones Campaign Strategy
- Put your phone away before driving. That helps to remove any temptation to use it.
- Do not call other people if you know they will be driving or riding.
- Always use hands free phone devices responsibly.
- Make the glove compartment the phone compartment!