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The Law and Using Your Mobile Phone While Driving

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 6 Jun 2018 | 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]
HTT - Your Question:
My daughter was pulled over two months ago and the policemen was extremely rude and shouted at her to get out of her car. He accused her of being on the phone, which she swears she wasn't, as her phone only works using blu-tooth, so she was talking through hands free, and ended the call, and as she ended the call the light on her mobile came on for a second, and the policemen said he saw the light come on, so she explained that the she was talking through the blu tooth and was certainly not on the phone. She said she could prove it by showing him that it came through the phone. He got extremely rude to her, and unfortunately she got very rude back!!!!! She has just received the ticket. Is it worth going to court, as she is adamant if she was on the phone shewould take penalty, but as she wasn't she wants to go to court. She has also been told by a JP, that she should represent herself as it looks like she is transparent and not hiding behind a lawyer. Any advice would be great. TIA

Our Response:
We can't really give individual legal advice unfortunately.
NoPenaltyPoints - 6-Jun-18 @ 2:59 PM
My daughter was pulled over two months ago and the policemen was extremely rude and shouted at her to get out of her car.He accused her of being on the phone, which she swears she wasn't, as her phone only works using blu-tooth, so she was talking through hands free, and ended the call, and as she ended the call the light on her mobile came on for a second, and the policemen said he saw the light come on, so she explained that the she was talking through the blu tooth and was certainly not on the phone.She said she could prove it by showing him that it came through the phone.He got extremely rude to her, and unfortunately she got very rude back!!!!!She has just received the ticket.Is it worth going to court, as she is adamant if she was on the phone shewould take penalty, but as she wasn't she wants to go to court.She has also been told by a JP, that she should represent herself as it looks like she is transparent and not hiding behind a lawyer.Any advice would be great.TIA
HTT - 6-Jun-18 @ 1:42 PM
mian - Your Question:
Just got stopped by police car on A406 on offense of using mobile while driving while I never used mobile for communication either attending call or looking or replying any messages, can be checked via mobile records that no calls or messages received or sent during that time. I had tom tom fixed on my screen and was not even touching that I thought they mistaken that. I did not sign the offense consent but she entered my comment that "I was not using my mobile while driving"

Our Response:
If you hadn't touched your phone and were simply using the a tom tom sat nav you may be able to appeal this in court. Speak to a solicitor.
NoPenaltyPoints - 9-May-18 @ 3:40 PM
Just got stopped by police car on A406 on offense of using mobile while driving while i never used mobile for communication either attending call or looking or replying any messages, can be checked via mobile records that no calls or messages received or sent during that time. i had tom tom fixed on my screen and was not even touching that i thought they mistaken that. I did not sign the offense consent but she entered my comment that "I was not using my mobile while driving"
mian - 9-May-18 @ 12:39 PM
Elmo - Your Question:
I been stopped for 7 month ago for using a mobile while driving a lorry.the police officer told me he caught me when I turned on the Main Street. I was sitting 9.5 foot high. And he in a unmarked Audi.at this time he was 200 yard away.first of all. I wasn’t on the phone. I offer him to check the phone call history. He declined. I ask him for the photo proof. He declined.my solicitor ask for any evidence. Never came. Now I got court hearing.how are my chances

Our Response:
Your solicitor should be able to advise you on this. Your solicitor should have records of your phone use and can ask police for relevant evidence in advance of the hearing.
NoPenaltyPoints - 1-May-18 @ 2:49 PM
I been stopped for 7 month ago for using a mobile while driving a lorry.the police officer told me he caught me when I turned on the Main Street. I was sitting 9.5 foot high. And he in a unmarked Audi.at this time he was 200 yard away.first of all. I wasn’t on the phone. I offer him to check the phone call history. He declined. I ask him for the photo proof. He declined.my solicitor ask for any evidence. Never came. Now I got court hearing.how are my chances
Elmo - 30-Apr-18 @ 8:18 PM
Hi...I have been caught using my phone on a camera and advised it will be 6 points and a 200 fine. However I had to attend to it as my wife who is in the final stages of her pregnancy called to let me know she was having pains. Please advise as it was genuine and I picked up the phone I was at a red light..I'm hoping it will be seen as a genuine emergency
Kb - 18-Apr-18 @ 10:59 PM
Hi. I was dropping my mates of in town and once I drove of I stopped at the lights and looked at my phone !! Then 2 seconds later a cop car pulled up at the side of me and started having a go saying il be reserving 6 points and a fine. But they did not get out the car or anything ?? Will I get there’s points & the fine or was they just trying to scare me ?? Thanks Ash
Ash - 14-Apr-18 @ 1:56 AM
Josh - Your Question:
I was stopped for using a phone while driving. I was told it would be a £200 fine and 6 points but 3 weeks later I have till not had notice of the fine, or penalty by post. How long can it take.What happens next or what should I do?

Our Response:
The police have up to 6 months in which to take further action.
NoPenaltyPoints - 9-Apr-18 @ 2:21 PM
I was stopped for using a phone while driving. I was told it would be a £200 fine and 6 points but 3 weeks later I have till not had notice of the fine, or penalty by post. How long can it take. What happens next or what should I do?
Josh - 8-Apr-18 @ 8:41 AM
Hi I was pulled over by the police for allegedly using my mobile phone when it was actually my e cigarette the police officer was on the side of the road and another police officer further down pulled me over. I am taking this to court but what are my chances of winning? Thanks
Blueecho86 - 29-Mar-18 @ 6:26 PM
Hi my husband just been pulled over he moved the phone to look on a map paper and the police still give him a trafic offence raport( a long ticket) so if he has the hands free on his earand didn't speak or use the phone what will happen next his lorry driver so if he ricive the 6 points penalty he will lose his job
Daiana - 25-Mar-18 @ 5:31 PM
Hi I have received a notice of 6 points and £200 fine for using a phone.i had my satnav fixed to my windscreen and Bluetooth connected I touched the screen and I was stopped.but I was not in communication with anyone or was I stopped for any other driving offence.can I contest this?
Externalwidget - 21-Mar-18 @ 2:01 PM
Ohdear - Your Question:
If I haven’t been pulled but have possibly been seen to be on my phone how long do the police have to initiate a fine/points?

Our Response:
Assuming you are the registered keeper of the vehicle and haven't changed address recently you should hear within 14 days.
NoPenaltyPoints - 14-Mar-18 @ 12:09 PM
If I haven’t been pulled but have possibly been seen to be on my phone how long do the police have to initiate a fine/points?
Ohdear - 12-Mar-18 @ 1:08 AM
Colby - Your Question:
I was stopped by the police with my mobile phone in my hand, the phone was on charge sitting on the dashboard, while I was driving I caught the cable and pulled the phone into the footwell of the van I was using, I pulled the cable to move the phone away from my foot, when the phone reached my hand the police drove by see the phone and then pulled me over.

Our Response:
There's not much you can do about this. Even if the police didn't see you speaking on your phone, what you did will have been considered unsafe whilst driving.
NoPenaltyPoints - 5-Mar-18 @ 3:51 PM
I was stopped by the police with my mobile phone in my hand, the phone was on charge sitting on the dashboard, while I was driving I caught the cable and pulled the phone into the footwell of the van I was using, I pulled the cable to move the phone away from my foot, when the phone reached my hand the police drove by see the phone and then pulled me over.
Colby - 3-Mar-18 @ 9:00 AM
Mo - Your Question:
Hi, I was using my phone for maps and had it placed on the passenger seat as my phone holder was broken at the time. A police car pulled up next to me and they saw my phone was in use for maps on the passenger seat. They didn’t pull me over but I am just wondering if I could still be charged through the post or do they have to pull me over to charge me? I wasn’t using my phone apart from getting directions, which was directed through the speaker, hands free. Thanks

Our Response:
They can still charge youthrouhg the post if they feel they have evidence that you were using the phone in way that would be distracting (if you're using it as a sat nav it has to be in a position where you can view it easily whilst driving).
NoPenaltyPoints - 28-Feb-18 @ 3:34 PM
Gazza- Your Question:
Hi my partner has just been pulled over for using her phone, she was not on her phone or touching any buttons but was using it for sat nav but also had her hands free ear phone attached. The only thing she didn't do was have it on the holder as it was on the seat. The police dash cam could in theory show she was not using it to back up her story. He hasn't had licence for 2 years so worried about losing it. Where do we stand? Thanks for any help

Our Response:
We really don't know as we don't have all the details. If she was using it for satnav but it was on the seat meaning she'd have to look down at directions - the police could also penalise for this.
NoPenaltyPoints - 28-Feb-18 @ 11:11 AM
Hi, I was using my phone for maps and had it placed on the passenger seat as my phone holder was broken at the time. A police car pulled up next to me and they saw my phone was in use for maps on the passenger seat. They didn’t pull me over but I am just wondering if I could still be charged through the post or do they have to pull me over to charge me? I wasn’t using my phone apart from getting directions, which was directed through the speaker, hands free. Thanks
Mo - 27-Feb-18 @ 9:51 PM
Hi my partner has just been pulled over for using her phone, she was not on her phone or touching any buttons but was using it for sat nav but also had her hands free ear phone attached. The only thing she didn't do was have it on the holder as it was on the seat. The police dash cam could in theory show she was not using it to back up her story. He hasn't had licence for 2 years so worried about losing it. Where do we stand? Thanks for any help
Gazza - 26-Feb-18 @ 9:43 PM
sss - Your Question:
I had my phone on speaker in my hand and was stopped. This was 4 weeks ago and I'm still waiting for a letter. how long can I be expected to wait?

Our Response:
The police have up to 6 mothns in which to initiate further action, so it could be 6 months or more before you hear further depending on whether it's proceeding to court or not.
NoPenaltyPoints - 21-Feb-18 @ 3:39 PM
I had my phone on speaker in my hand and was stopped. This was 4 weeks ago and I'm still waiting for a letter.. how long can I be expected to wait?
sss - 21-Feb-18 @ 9:58 AM
I was stopped for using my phone at lights. Two policemen called me out my car. They told me I would get a fine and then said that I wouldn’t get points. They were unsure what the find would be - between 60-200. But were adamant about the no points. Asked what I did for a living etc. And said I didn’t need to worry. This was corroborated by both of them. But nothing written down. Now I have a letter for £200 and 6 points. I don’t know what to do. Should I risk going to court or is my fine likely to be larger? But surely people in authority can’t go around just saying stuff that isn’t true.
Vantheplan - 17-Feb-18 @ 8:50 PM
James bond - Your Question:
If the police didnt see your phone but they are outside looking for cars to caught and they see your face looking down on your phone and they didnt stop you would they send a letter to your house?

Our Response:
Yes you could receive an NIP through the post for this offence.
NoPenaltyPoints - 6-Feb-18 @ 3:38 PM
If the police didnt see your phone but they are outside looking for cars to caught and they see your face looking down on your phone and they didnt stop you would they send a letter to your house?
James bond - 6-Feb-18 @ 12:05 PM
Cazza - Your Question:
I am really panicking about losing my licence. I have had my licence for 6 months and have be3n caught speeding, I had the opportunity to complicate a driving awareness course. I have now been caught using my mobile phone to send a text and got caught. Will I lose my licence or is there any way I could avoid this.

Our Response:
The standard penalty for driving with a mobile phone is 6 points plus a fine. Courses are no longer issued for this offence as it's considered too serious to warrant such an option. Under the new drivers' act, if you have 6 points are more within two years of obtaining your full licence, it will be revoked.
NoPenaltyPoints - 29-Jan-18 @ 11:03 AM
I am really panicking about losing my licence. I have had my licence for 6 months and have be3n caught speeding, I had the opportunity to complicate a driving awareness course. I have now been caught using my mobile phone to send a text and got caught. Will I lose my licence or is there any way I could avoid this.
Cazza - 26-Jan-18 @ 9:48 AM
Daniel90 - Your Question:
I was caught using mobile phone whilst driving today. The police officer who stopped me said most likely I will be sent to a course instead of 6points as its my first time. However I searched online and could not find anything but 6point penalty.Ive had my licence less than 2 years and am really worried now. Is it possible to go on the course which is what the officer said or am I going to lose my licence?Please reply.

Our Response:
You're correct, the general approach to using a mobile while driving is that it will attract 6 points plus a fine £200 fine.
NoPenaltyPoints - 23-Jan-18 @ 3:36 PM
I was caught using mobile phone whilst driving today. The police officer who stopped me said most likely i will be sent to a course instead of 6points as its my first time. However i searched online and could not find anything but 6point penalty. Ive had my licence less than 2 years and am really worried now. Is it possible to go on the course which is what the officer said or am i going to lose my licence? Please reply.
Daniel90 - 20-Jan-18 @ 8:47 PM
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