Mobile phones keep us connected on the go. You can let your family know you’re running late or catch up with business calls on your commute. But sometimes using a mobile phone when you’re driving can be dangerous. If you’re caught holding your phone when you drive, it can lead to stiff penalties or worse still, you could cause an accident. To help you find out how to safely use your mobile phone when you drive, we explain exactly what is legal and what is not.
Using your phone hands-free
It’s illegal to hold or touch your phone when you’re driving. To safely use your phone in your car you will need to be able to use it without using your hands. You can do that with:
- A Bluetooth headset.
- Voice command.
You cannot pick up or touch your phone even momentarily, so you’ll need to set it up for use before you start to drive.
Good to know: Even if your phone is fully hands-free you could still be stopped by the police and fined if they believe that using your phone hands-free has distracted you.
Using your phone as a sat-nav
Phones aren’t just used in the car for making calls. Lots of people want to use their phone as a sat-nav too. The law on using mobile phones in a car specifically refers to using it as a sat-nav. It makes it clear that it is illegal to use your phone as a handheld map. To be able to use your phone as a sat-nav safely and legally you’ll need to mount it on your windscreen or dashboard.
Good to know: If you mount your phone on your windscreen you need to be very careful about the position. If it obstructs your view you can be fined.
Using your phone when your car is stationary
A whopping 19% of us admit to using our mobiles phones to check for texts or social media when we’re in a traffic jam. But this is illegal and can result in fines and endorsements. Even if your car is stopped, at traffic lights for example, you cannot hold your mobile phone. If you do, you are breaking the law.
Using a mobile phone when you’re with a learner driver
Did you know you can’t use a mobile phone if you’re sitting with a learner driver? If you do, you’ll be liable for the fine and penalty points. That’s because when you’re instructing a learner, you’re legally responsible for the car and any road laws. Find out more in our guide to Who can sit with a learner driver.
Is it ever okay to use my mobile phone when I’m driving?
The only times you can legally touch your phone in a car is if you are parked safely with the engine off or if you need to make a 999 call.
Good to know: It’s only ok to use your phone to make a 999 call if it would be impossible for you to stop to use it safely.
How can I be caught holding my mobile phone?
The obvious way you’ll be stopped for using your phone when you drive is if you’re seen by the police. But did you know that there are also automatic roadside detection systems in use that can spot the offence? It won’t issue fines, but the information will be passed on to the police according to a report in The Sun.
Also, be aware that other road users or pedestrians can report you to the local police if they see you using your mobile phone illegally. Many police forces now accept online reports. If there is sufficient evidence, for example a photo, they can follow it up by issuing fines and endorsements.
What happens if you’re caught using a mobile phone unsafely when you’re driving?
The government takes a tough stance on anyone holding a mobile phone when they are driving. There are steep penalties with no gentle caution for first-time offenders.
- A £200 fine.
- Six points on your licence.
If you have passed your driving test within the last two years, that’s enough points to mean you’ll lose your licence instantly.
Depending on the severity of your case you can also be taken to court. This can result in:
- A maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or a bus).
- A driving ban.
Good to know: If you’ve held your driving licence for more than two years you can clock up 12 penalty points before losing your licence. That equates to being stopped just twice for using your mobile phone when you drive. Remember, penalty points stay on your licence for three years and you can get penalty points for other driving offences like speeding.
What happens if I cause an accident?
If you cause an accident as a result of using your mobile phone, you’ll face a driving ban of at least two years. It can also invalidate your insurance. Causing death by careless or dangerous driving currently carries a prison sentence of 14 years. However, there are moves to increase this to life imprisonment.
The problem with points
Using your mobile phone when you drive simply isn’t worth the risk. As well as the increased likelihood you’ll cause an accident, the expensive fine, and the chance you’ll lose your licence, there are other associated costs. Points on your licence can mean a steep increase in the cost of your car insurance premium.
Good to know: Read our guide for tips on getting cheap car insurance if you have points on your licence.
Touching your phone, even for just a few seconds when you’re stuck in traffic, can lead to fines, penalty points, or even losing your licence. If you must use your phone, make sure it is a completely hands-free system. And be aware that you can still be stopped for careless driving if the phone call is distracting you.