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The Law and Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 18 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Mobile Phone Driving Mobile Phone

Since 1 December 2003 it has been illegal to drive in the UK while using a hand held mobile phone. Previous to this legislation the only way a motorist would face prosecution for using a mobile phone would be if they were charged with failing to keep control of their car while they were using it.

When the 2003 law first came into effect it was largely ignored, leading to debate over whether or not the £30 fixed penalty notice was enough of a deterrent. Although more than 75,000 penalty notices were given out in 2004, many drivers still blatantly flouted the law and it was decided that the fine was not effective enough. From 27 February 2007 it doubled to £60 (rising to up to £1000 should the case be taken to court), and driving while using a hand-held mobile phone became an endorsable offence, with 3 Penalty Points added to the offender's licence. The seriousness of the offence and the numbers of drivers continuing to flout the law, led to a further increase in the penalty level in March 2017 to £200 and 6 penalty points. Driver awareness courses are no longer offered for this offence.

Ok, so what exactly is the law now?

The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.

What is a 'Hand Held Communication Device'?

A hand held device is something that must at some point be held in your hand while you are making or receiving a voice call or other form of communication. It includes PDAs that can be used to download emails, text messages, picture messages etc . Basically to stay on the safe side of the law, any hand held device that has a communication function is best avoided while driving.

I am still careful with my driving when talking on my mobile phone. Why can't I use it?

No matter how safe you think you are, it's still dangerous to Use a Mobile While you're Driving. Studies have shown that a driver’s reaction can be up to 50% slower than usual and the risk of crashing is increased by 4 times when they are using a mobile phone. Reactions of drivers using mobiles were recorded as being 30% worse than that of a driver who was over the drink driving limit. Texting or speaking on the phone distracts you from what you are doing and you are forced to split your concentration between driving and chatting, when you should be focusing your full attention on the road.

Can I use a hands free phone?

Yes you can. Essentially, you are allowed to push buttons for example on a steering wheel control column, but not to hold the phone, so make sure it’s in a cradle which is attached to your dashboard and can be operated remotely. However, do remember that if you are stopped for driving in a poor or careless manner and the police discover that you were using a hands-free mobile phone, you can still be prosecuted for not having proper control of your vehicle.

If you are unlucky enough to end up in an accident, your mobile phone records may be used as evidence to prove that you were distracted at the time of the accident. This could lead to further points on your licence, large fines and in some cases, even a prison sentence.

Are there any exemptions?

If you are in a genuine emergency situation and it would be unsafe for you to stop, there is an exemption in place that allows motorists to call the emergency services on 999 or 112 while driving.

My mobile is ringing and I am driving. What should I do?

The safest bet is to leave it ringing and call the person back once you are no longer driving and are parked in a safe location. Even just picking up the phone to say ‘I’m driving, I’ll call you back’ is illegal. If you are working and it is your boss ringing, you should make sure they know that they should forbid employees to answer company mobiles if they are driving. If they fail to do so they may well be liable in the event of an accident or a prosecution.

Financial Implications

Besides the obvious financial implications of a fine, if you are caught breaking this law and end up in an accident as a result, it's entirely possible that your insurance company will not pay out to fix any damage to your car. You could lose your no-claims bonus and increase your premiums, so wherever possible, switch your phone off when you are in transit.

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[Add a Comment]
David Cocker- Your Question:
My daughter got stopped as she answered a phone call at tragic lights. 11 sec incoming call. She needs her car to get to work. And is a single parent. / will be forced to give up work. She faces looking her licence as not been driving 3years Is it worth trying to get reduced punishment

Our Response:
If she wants to plead mitigating circumstances (i.e she cannot get to work without a car) it might be worth her consulting a motoring lawyer.
NoPenaltyPoints - 18-Dec-17 @ 2:48 PM
The other day I was driving at night and I was on my phone but below the window so I was looking down for a second or two and my friend noticed a police car pull out of a road on the opposite side to me. The roads were completely empty and the police car pulled out and drove the other way. Would it of seen me and if so could he put my reg through the system and send me a fine? Or is it likely that he would of pulled me over and instead he hasn’t done me? Thanks.
Geo - 18-Dec-17 @ 11:08 AM
My daughter got stopped as she answered a phone call at tragic lights. 11 sec incoming call. She needs her car to get to work. And is a single parent. / will be forced to give up work. She faces looking her licence as not been driving 3years Is it worth trying to get reduced punishment
David Cocker - 15-Dec-17 @ 10:19 PM
I feel absolutely foolish & not sure what to do or whether to even be worried. I was talking while driving but my phone was not in my hand but on a flat surface in the car, however as unbelievable as this may seem I happened to have my partners phone in my hand as I was just telling the caller I had it & someone drove past with their passenger filming laughing at me mouthing they caught me but the reality was I wasn't using that phone in question even though I admit it must have looked really bad. As it wasn't the police would I still be at risk if they sent it on? I know my question sounds ridiculous & I've been stupid to pick it but it was a automatic human action when saying I got her phone I wasn't using it & obviously dropped it back down. Gutted
j-cham - 8-Dec-17 @ 4:37 PM
Hi! On Monday, I was caught on my phone whilst checking maps. Which is fair enough, it’s the law. Usually I never use my phone, I was so lost at the time and was stuck in gridlock traffic. I wanted to know, will it 100% be a £200 fine and 6 points? Thank you! Kai Reid
Reidk1605 - 6-Dec-17 @ 11:24 PM
Greg - Your Question:
Hi. Sombody called me and said: I agent smith and I recorded you are using phone while driving last theusday. And he give me 6 point and 200£. He didnt tell me which car, where was that and what time. And he just hung up. I call back and the same person said that was Matt and he didint call for my number. Pleas tell me what to do?

Our Response:
Ignore it. If you were caught/seen using a mobile while driving you will be sent aNotice of Intended Prosecution by the police (through the post). If someone else has recorded you using your phone while driving, they should contact the police and submit their evidence if requested to do so. If you're concerned, report the phone number to the police.
NoPenaltyPoints - 6-Dec-17 @ 10:27 AM
Hi. Sombody called me and said: I agent smith and I recorded you are using phone while driving last theusday. And he give me 6 point and 200£. He didnt tell me which car, where was that and what time. And he just hung up. I call back and the same person said that was Matt and he didint call for my number. Pleas tell me what to do?
Greg - 5-Dec-17 @ 11:53 AM
Hi I was at a traffic light and my car was stopped. I was checking the GPS on my phone, cause I'm not from Lonon and an officer driving next to me stopped me and I recieve a penalty notice now with 200£ and 6 point. Can I win on the court or shall I just pay the Penalty? Thanks
george.b - 1-Dec-17 @ 6:26 PM
Hi i was stopped by an officer who thought he saw me on my phone, i had a penknife in my hand which i had taken out my pocket as it digs in. (Im an electrician not just random knife) my phone was on the passenger seat plugged in charging, i have a hands free kit built into my van. I offered to show the officer my phone and that it wasnt used or recieved anything. He declined. He also described it as a black phone. Its white. Ive never had any other points in 5 years driving. What are the chances if i contest the fine? As he has no proof and niether do i?
Al - 10-Oct-17 @ 5:43 PM
No-name - Your Question:
I was at traffic lights and my sat-nav on my phone slipped, so I picked it up to check my route. A police officer on a bike saw me and pulled up next to me, asking me to pull up down another road. He said he would suggest a course but couldn't promise anything. 6 weeks later I get hit with 6 points and 200 fine. I understand I shouldn't have touched my phone, even to look at the sat-nav but I do think its a bit harsh to be hit with the same punishment as someone texting while actually driving. I also didn't receive an NIP in 14 days, just a penalty that took 6/7 weeks to arrive. I actually thought the officer was going to be nice and let me off when I hadn't heard anything for a while. Does this mean I might have a case to contest??

Our Response:
No, unfortunately you can't expect the police to be able to distinguish between someone texting and someone looking at a satnav. If your phone's in your hand, that is enough to be penalised. The 14 day rule does not apply when you are stopped at the time of the incident.
NoPenaltyPoints - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:28 AM
I was at traffic lights and my sat-nav on my phone slipped, so I picked it up to check my route. A police officer on a bike saw me and pulled up next to me, asking me to pull up down another road. He said he would suggest a course but couldn't promise anything. 6 weeks later I get hit with 6 points and 200 fine. I understand I shouldn't have touched my phone, even to look at the sat-nav but I do think its a bit harsh to be hit with the same punishment as someone texting while actually driving. I also didn't receive an NIP in 14 days, just a penalty that took 6/7 weeks to arrive. I actually thought the officer was going to be nice and let me off when I hadn't heard anything for a while. Does this mean I might have a case to contest??
No-name - 27-Sep-17 @ 11:18 AM
i was driving and wasnt talking in my phone police officer stop me and i was really scared as i never been stopped from police and now i get letter where its say the officer reported me and i need to admit guilty or go to the court all evidence they got is the police officer word and im thinking about talking it to the court as i will lose my driving licenses if i admit guilty please advice me what will happen if i take to the court as my word against his word thanks
MR MOMAR - 26-Sep-17 @ 7:31 PM
Ron - Your Question:
I was seen on phone pulling into a petrol station whilst driving my truck on 10th august, went through everything at the time with the officer, was told to expect a letter within 28 days then have a further 28 days to pay the fine, its been 6 weeks now and still havent recieved anything is this normal I hear they have 6 months to issue me the points and fine??

Our Response:
The police do usually issue fixed penalties within 28 days but actually have up to 6 mothns in which to take further action. There could be a delay or it could be that alternative action (court summons etc) has been decided.
NoPenaltyPoints - 22-Sep-17 @ 2:31 PM
I was seen on phone pulling into a petrol station whilst driving my truck on 10th august, went through everything at the time with the officer, was told to expect a letter within 28 days then have a further 28 days to pay the fine, its been 6 weeks now and still havent recieved anything is this normal i hear they have 6 months to issue me the points and fine??
Ron - 21-Sep-17 @ 10:52 AM
ivan ignatov - Your Question:
Hi was stopped by police officer on motorway. My phone was in my hand but I didn't text. I received FPN for 200£ and 6 points. I paid the notice,but I don't send my driving license details yet. My question is how much will cost me if I appeal and lost the case?

Our Response:
We can't say what the costs will be as they may vary depending on the nature of the case and any legal costs. What grounds do you have for appealing? Having your phone in your hand is sufficient to be distracted according to the police.
NoPenaltyPoints - 18-Sep-17 @ 10:38 AM
I wasn't actually on the phone (my phone records will prove this) but did have it in my hand as I was trying to plug it in when someone in ano unmarked truck pulled up next to me, started screaming at me that I'm on the phone and then proceeded to show me his warrant card out of his window, I was not pulled over, he was in plain clothes and smoking a cigarette What did happen to others
Ej - 15-Sep-17 @ 7:56 PM
Hi was stopped by police officer on motorway. My phone was in my hand but i didn't text. I received FPN for 200£ and 6 points. I paid the notice,but i don't send my driving license details yet. My question is how much will cost me if i appeal and lost the case?
ivan ignatov - 15-Sep-17 @ 8:54 AM
Are there cameras that can catch you on your phone, if so what are they called
Stu - 7-Sep-17 @ 11:42 AM
Hi Matty ......... what was the outcome your query as I'm in the same boat? I wasn't actually on the phone (my phone records will prove this) but did have it in my hand as I was trying to plug it in when someone in ano unmarked truck pulled up next to me, started screaming at me that I'm on the phone and then proceeded to show me his warrant card out of his window (this is on the motorway may I add) and read my reg off to someone through his earpiece thingie.
Dumbass - 16-Aug-17 @ 7:51 PM
Hi, I know I was in the wrong but yesterday when driving in my work van, I answered the phone and had it on speaker with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding the phone in line with he steering wheel. However one of the mobile police speed camera vans drove passed me and looked in but they never stopped me or anything like that. What are the chances of me getting points and a fine? Thanks
Andrew - 23-Jun-17 @ 6:16 PM
Carly - Your Question:
There was bumper to bumper traffic in Sunbury on Thames yesterday, I was under duress (other stresses in my life) and needed to tell someone I was running late. My handbrake was up and I sent a quick text to my mum to say I was going to be considerably late- there was nowhere to pull over. I did not get pulled over yesterday but shouted at by a police officer who drove up beside me in the next lane "Do you know what the fine/penalty is for using a mobile phone.""No" I replied and he said "£100 and 6 points"At this point I started to cry, and shake and I asked if the officer needed to pull me over and he said "no" drove onwards in his lane and looked back at the car (perhaps taking down the details of the car?) How are FPNs issued? Do they just need a registration number and send it to the registered address of the car? Please let me know, I have high anxiety and am not able to function properly, I can't eat or sleep as I have never ever been in trouble before with an authority and I am terrified. Would I be offered a course instead as I have a clean licence that I have held for 7 years?

Our Response:
The police officer may have decided to take no further action but if an NIP were to be issued it would be sent to the registered keeper of your vehicle. As you were not actually stopped and your details (name etc) verified, an NIP has to be served before fixed penalty or course is offered. An NIP has to be issued within 14 days of the offence, so you will hear within 14 days.
NoPenaltyPoints - 21-Jun-17 @ 10:29 AM
There was bumper to bumper traffic in Sunbury on Thames yesterday, I was under duress (other stresses in my life) and needed to tell someone I was running late. My handbrake was up and I sent a quick text to my mum to say I was going to be considerably late- there was nowhere to pull over. I did not get pulled over yesterday but shouted at by a police officer who drove up beside me in the next lane "Do you know what the fine/penalty is for using a mobile phone." "No" i replied and he said "£100 and 6 points" At this point I started to cry, and shake and I asked if the officer needed to pull me over and he said "no" drove onwards in his lane and looked back at the car (perhaps taking down the details of the car?) How are FPNs issued? Do they just need a registration number and send it to the registered address of the car? Please let me know, I have high anxiety and am not able to function properly, I can't eat or sleep as I have never ever been in trouble before with an authority and I am terrified. Would I be offered a course instead as I have a clean licence that I have held for 7 years?
Carly - 19-Jun-17 @ 9:17 AM
HudsonRiver - Your Question:
I was stopped today 22nd if may, as I had my phone in my hand while driving. I was not using it and was going to put it on my hand free holder. Police stopped and said I would be written to to make a decision. As he says I was not in full control of my vehicle. I showed home my call history and text history to prove I was not using my phone. Do you think I will still be issued points!! ??

Our Response:
Yes you might still be fined/given points. For safety reasons, it would have been better to stop before handling your phone.
NoPenaltyPoints - 22-May-17 @ 2:44 PM
I was stopped today 22nd if may, as I had my phone in my hand while driving. I was not using it and was going to put it on my hand free holder. Police stopped and said I would be written to to make a decision. As he says I was not in full control of my vehicle. I showed home my call history and text history to prove I was not using my phone. Do you think I will still be issued points!! ??
HudsonRiver - 22-May-17 @ 10:26 AM
I was stopped in oct 16 before the new 6 points law came into force. I am now going to court in June 17. If found guilty, will I be given 3 points or 6 points or worse? There was no accident involved, just stopped and pulled over
Gaz - 20-May-17 @ 5:28 PM
Hello, I received a fixed penalty in the UK in The new rules from 1St st march state mobile phone use shouldbe 6 points and 200 fine for mobile use So a few things I was moving my mobile to put down from my pocket but this will be open to interpretation The date of the offence was 1st March where new rules were implemented I received the letter 22nd March I was driving my partners car, I'm a named driver My offer letter states200 fine and 3 points not 6?
Charles asante - 4-Apr-17 @ 8:55 PM
josh - Your Question:
Hi, I recently received a text message while driving past a parked police car. I did not look at my phone but it was lying down by my hand break and as it was night time the light shined up on my face. The police car preceded to follow me for about half a mile and then stopped. Is it possible that I could receive a ticket in the post or would they have to have pulled me?

Our Response:
Your phone/activity log should proof that you didn't pick up the phone or operate it, if it goes any further. It's always best to simply keep your phone away in your bag or glove box etc
NoPenaltyPoints - 10-Mar-17 @ 2:36 PM
Hi, i recently received a text message while driving past a parked police car. I did not look at my phone but it was lying down by my hand break and as it was night time the light shined up on my face. The police car preceded to follow me for about half a mile and then stopped. Is it possible that i could receive a ticket in the post or would they have to have pulled me?
josh - 10-Mar-17 @ 1:42 AM
If you are caught by a police officer using your phone whilst driving do they need to pull you over to issue a penalty and fine? If they just look at you can they report you and have you get the fine etc and can they film you doing so and cause the same effect? Fine/penalty?
Matty - 2-Mar-17 @ 6:33 PM
Hi A. If you were stopped by the police it can take up to 6months before you hear anything. It's usually nearer 28 days though if that's any use.
Yolande - 6-Feb-17 @ 12:19 PM
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