Questions we answer in this guide:
- What’s the law on driving while using your mobile phone?
- What are the penalties for driving while using your phone or other electronic device?
- Can you ever use a phone when driving?
- What appeals are there for drivers who are charged with this offence?
Driving while using a mobile phone
It's illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or electronic device while driving a vehicle.
The fact that the original penalty for this offence (a fixed £30 fine and no penalty points) has increased steadily over the years to a £200 fine and 6 penalty points today, shows the seriousness with which the police, courts and the general public see it.
What was once treated as a very minor offence – akin to a parking fine – now carries a much greater stigma... one that's seen by many to be as dangerous and irresponsible as drink driving.
The law also doesn’t stop at mobile phones: MP3 players, sat-navs and any other hand-held electronic device can cause a distraction if you handle them while driving.
Acceptable hands-free solutions include:
• Bluetooth headsets • Voice-operated devices • Windscreen mounts or dashboard holders • Built-in sat-nav systems
However, the police can still stop and punish drivers using hands-free devices if they have reason to believe the device has distracted you while you were driving or if a mounted device is obscuring your view of the road.
Penalties for driving when using a mobile phone or other hand-held electronic device
Typically, this offence is punishable with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN): £200 fine and 6 penalty points.
This is essentially an instant disqualification for new drivers, whose license will be revoked if they accumulate 6 points or more in the first 2 years after passing their driving test.
However, more serious cases may be referred to the courts where drivers can be prosecuted and face a maximum £1,000 fine, rising to £2,500 for drivers of passenger vehicles or heavy goods vehicles.
Those drivers convicted of causing an accident while distracted by a mobile phone or other electronic device would likely be charged with dangerous driving and potentially death by dangerous driving.
We discuss this offence in more detail in our dangerous driving guide, but the penalties include up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, a driving ban and between 3 and 11 penalty points.
What counts as using a mobile phone while driving?
If you’re using a hands-free device, it must be fully set up before you start your journey so it can be operated without the driver having to physically handle the device. The law still applies to motorists while they’re waiting at traffic lights, junctions or stopped in traffic jams.
And as passengers supervising provisionally licensed drivers are the ones responsible for the vehicle, they can be fined for using their phone in that situation too.
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