Are you aware of the new UK mobile phone driving laws?
The new mobile phone driving laws are a relief to many who have been involved in accidents or near-misses with drivers distracted by their mobile phones. We break down the latest dos and don’ts, and answer some of the most commonly asked questions around using your mobile phone while driving.
Why has the law changed?
Mobile phone laws were first introduced in 2003, however our devices have evolved significantly since then. It was always illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone to make calls while driving, and from 2007 drivers incurred penalty points and a fine, but from 2017, the penalty doubled to 6 points. Despite the increase in fines and penalties, the problem has persisted.
RAC’s 2020 Report on Motoring found that almost a third of Britain’s 40 million drivers (roughly 13 million people) said that handheld mobile phone usage by other drivers is one of their top concerns. While 13 million of us are concerned about it, the same report found that over 11 million confessed to making or receiving calls while driving. Even more shocking is that 18% of drivers aged 17 – 24 admit to making video calls while behind the wheel!
Following a landmark case in 2019 which involved legal action being overturned in the courts after a driver used his mobile phone to film a crash, rules have had to be changed to reflect other uses, including camera usage, streaming and even gaming. Up until now, the law only applied to ‘communicating’. From January 2022, drivers are banned from holding their mobile phones for any reason.
What mobile phone usage is permitted?
- You are only legally allowed to answer calls if you’re mobile is set up with hands free already.
- The only time you can use your mobile phone in your hands while driving is to call 999 or 112, if it isn’t safe to stop.
- You are permitted to use your mobile when safely parked and your engine is switched off.
What mobile phone usage isn’t permitted while driving?
- Using a handheld device while driving is illegal, and that includes whether you are driving, or supervising a learner driver.
- You are not allowed to touch your mobile to answer it.
- You are not allowed to use your device while waiting in queues or at traffic lights.
- There is no law to prevent tapping your phone on a fixed mount, however police can still charge you for driving without due care and attention or careless driving.
Can I use my mobile phone for sat-nav?
Sat-nav is still permitted but only if it has already been set up hands free before embarking on a journey – and must be securely mounted in a holder which doesn’t obstruct your view of the road. You cannot prop it up on your dashboard, for example. If your vehicle doesn’t have sat-nav built into the dash already, it may be sensible to purchase a sat-nav system and ensure it is mounted and ready to go whenever you are, allowing you to switch off your mobile phone while driving.
How can I stop my mobile phone from distracting me while driving?
One of the simplest ways to avoid temptation is to switch it off completely. Alternatively, placing it in ‘flight mode’ will prevent you from being distracted by calls and notifications while you are driving. As mentioned above, consider installing a sat-nav systems to avoid temptation should calls or notifications come through while you’re driving.
What happens if you use your mobile phone while driving?
The law is clear. If you are caught driving while using a handheld mobile phone, that is without a hands-free set up, you could end up losing your licence. It is also worth noting that the police can still stop you if they believe you are distracted by your mobile phone, even if it is fully hands-free.
How many penalty points can you get for using your mobile phone while driving?
- If you are caught, you will face a £200 fine and 6 points on your licence.
- If it is an extreme case, drivers can be taken to court and face a fine of £2,000 and disqualification.
- Drivers are only allowed to clock up 6 penalty points over 2 years so, if you have been driving for less than 2 years, you could lose your licence.
- Learner drivers will automatically be banned from driving.
- If the driver already has points on their licence, they could lose their licence if they receive a total of 12 points. This means that being caught just twice in three years you could lose your licence.
- You can still be fined if you are adhering to the rules, but police believe you are distracted by your device and not in proper control of your vehicle.