The UK Government introduced the law against using mobile phones while driving in 2003. Since then, the rules have tightened up and the penalty for breaking the law has increased significantly.

The latest change to legislation was enacted in March 2017. Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law so read the rest of this article to make sure you’re up to date.

Mobile Phone Driving Law

Under UK law, it’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving or riding a motorcycle. The only permitted exception is if you have set up hands free access and can use your phone without touching it at all.

According to the RAC, in 2016 a staggering 48% of drivers admitted to using their phone whilst their car is stationary in traffic. The law still applies even if you’re queuing in traffic or waiting at lights. It also applies if you’re a passenger who’s supervising a learner driver.

Remember: you mustn’t touch your phone at all whilst in the driving seat, unless your vehicle is parked.

Tougher Penalties

As of 1st March 2017, if you’re caught using your mobile phone while driving you could be fined £200 and receive 6 penalty points on your licence. If you passed your driving test within the previous two years, you’ll lose your licence as well.

In some cases, you may be taken to court. If this happens you could be banned from driving or riding motorbikes and fined up to £1,000.

Important: if you are a new driver (qualified for less than two years) you will lose your licence if you’re caught handling your phone behind the wheel.

Can You Use a Hands Free Phone While Driving?

If you need to use your phone while driving, you set up suitable hands free equipment before you begin your journey. If you want to make or receive calls then you’ll need a bluetooth headset or voice command software to enable you to operate your phone without touching it.

Even if your phone is fully hands free, you mustn’t allow it to interfere with your driving. The police still have the power to pull you over if they believe your phone has distracted you from driving safely.

Remember: if you don’t have a hands free device, you’ll need to park your vehicle safely before making or receiving a call.

Using Your Phone Sat Nav While Driving

A lot of people now use their smartphone as a sat nav or map when they’re on the move. According to the law, it’s illegal to use a handheld smartphone to follow a map or directions. Instead, you’ll need to have your phone fixed to your dashboard using a cradle.

Be careful with windscreen mounted hands free cradles. The Highway Code states that “windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision“. If the police decide that your mounted device is obstructing your view of the road then you could still be prosecuted. A dashboard mounted kit is a safer bet.

Remember: it’s illegal to touch your device at all whilst driving, even if only for a second. Program your destination into your device before setting off.

Why is the Hands-Free Law Needed?

Driving safely requires your full attention at all times. Handling a mobile phone while driving is distracting and dangerous. UK Government figures from 2015 show that mobile phones were a contributing factor to 22 deaths and 99 serious injuries in accidents on UK roads.

The Government believes that discouraging drivers from using mobile phones while driving will make our roads safer. They want to make using a phone when driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

What Action Should I Take?

It is your legal obligation to ensure that you understand how to drive safely. Familiarise yourself with the law as it now stands and with the Highway Code too.

If it’s been some time since you passed your driving test, you might wish to take a refresher course. This will bring you back up to speed with the rules of the road as they now stand.