In March 2017, new UK laws were introducing concerning mobile phones and driving.
It’s been illegal to use a mobile while driving in the UK since 2003. Despite this, studies show that around one in five UK drivers still use their phones behind the wheel. The new UK laws are intended to crack down on this dangerous behaviour once and for all, with higher fines and stricter punishments for anyone caught.
Indeed, the UK Prime Minister made it her personal pledge to make using a mobile while driving as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
So what’s at stake? Here’s everything you need to know about mobile phone driving law.
Mobile Phone Driving Law – What Does the Law Say?
UK law is blunt on this issue: “It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle.”
Note that it’s only illegal to hold a mobile. If you need to use your mobile, you must have hands-free access. This can include a Bluetooth headset, voice command, a dashboard holder, a windscreen mount, or your car’s inbuilt system.
Whichever hands-free system you use, it must not block your view of the road and the traffic ahead.
The law applies at all times. If you’re stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic, or even supervising a learner driver, it’s still illegal to hold a mobile while driving. You might feel tempted to check your Facebook while you’re stuck in a traffic jam, but don’t. This is illegal.
When Can You Hold a Mobile Phone in the Car?
You can only hold a mobile in your car when you’re safely parked.
If it’s an emergency situation, and you need to call 999 or 112, you can only use your mobile by hand if it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.
What If I’m Using my Phone as a Sat Nav?
This is no excuse. Even if you’re just following a map on your phone, you’ll still be shifting your attention away from the road every time you pick it up to check where you’re going.
If you need to use the navigation app on your phone, find a way of using it hands-free. Get a windscreen or a dashboard mount, and place it somewhere that’ll be in clear view when you’re driving without obstructing your view.
What are the Penalties for Holding a Mobile Phone While Driving?
You’re looking at a fine of £200 and six penalty points on your licence.
If you’re a new driver – that is, if you passed your driving test in the last two years – get caught using a hand-held phone while driving and you’ll lose your licence.
You will also need to disclose the conviction to your insurer which could result in an increased premium.
Your hands-free system can also land you in hot water if it’s not fit for purpose. If it’s found to obscure your view of the road and the traffic ahead then you can get three penalty points on your licence. The police also have the power to stop you if you appear to be too distracted by your conversation, even if it’s totally hands-free.
If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you may even get taken to court. If this happens, the penalties are considerably harsher. You’ll face a maximum fine of £1,000, or £2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or a bus. You could even get banned outright from driving or riding.
Mobile Phone Driving Law – Don’t Risk It
As you can see, mobile phone driving law is extremely strict, and the penalties if you’re caught are extremely harsh.
And why? Because it’s dangerous to use a mobile phone while driving. Anything that takes your attention away from the road has the potential to cause an accident, and mobile phones are no exception.
Some road safety charities think that the ban should be extended to all mobile use. It’s currently legal to use a hands-free device. But even these can be incredibly distracting. If you find you struggle to concentrate on driving while chatting on your hands-free, stop using it immediately. Your conversation can probably wait. And if it can’t, pull over and park somewhere safe, so you can give things your full attention.
Finally, make sure you’re covered by comprehensive car insurance at all times. That way, if you’re ever involved in an incident, you’ll be able to rest assured that everything will be taken care of.