Mobile phones and driving

It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003

It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003

It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003

It is illegal to use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving or while stopped with the engine on.

It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving since December 2003.

If you break this law, even if you are otherwise driving safely, you could face a fine of £60 and three penalty points on your licence.

You will be summonsed to appear in court if you refuse to accept the fixed penalty and may also be taken to court if the policeman thinks the offence so bad that a fixed penalty is inadequate.

If you go to court, fines will almost certainly be larger and disqualification is possible - the maximum fine in a court is £1000, or £2500 you were driving a bus or a goods vehicle.

You only need to be seen

These offences apply simply if you are seen using a mobile while driving.  If your driving is bad, or if there is a crash while you are using the phone, you could be prosecuted for careless driving, dangerous driving or, if someone is killed, for causing death by careless or dangerous driving.

Fines can be much greater, and prison becomes almost certain if a death is caused.

Hands-free mobile phones

While it is an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, this is not the case for hands-free phones.

However, if you are seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence. The penalties are the same as for using a hand-held phone.

Your employer

Your employer may be open to prosecution:

  • If they cause or permit you to drive while using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle
  • If they require you to make or receive calls whilst driving
  • If you drive dangerously because you are using a phone installed by your employer

Cyclists

It's not an offence to cycle and use a hand held mobile phone. However it is possible for you to be prosecuted for careless or dangerous cycling.

Exemptions

You can make a call to 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency, provided it is unsafe or impractical for you to stop first.

Other devices that send or receive data (for example Personal Digital Assistants) are not exempt. The one exception is two way radios.

Definitions

Hand-held device – something that "is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function".

Device – "similar" to a mobile phone if it performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.

Advice

There is worldwide evidence that using any sort of phone has a considerable effect on accident risk, so simply complying with the law does not make you a safe driver.

While it's not a specific offence, using a hands free phone can have a major bearing on whether or not you could be found guilty of careless or dangerous driving.

These offences can carry substantial fines, disqualifications and even imprisonment.

Using a phone in a car

  • Don't use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving or while stopped with the engine switched on – it is illegal.
  • Stop to make or take a call, or leave it to go to voicemail – even if you have a hands-free phone.
  • If you must talk, keep conversations short and simple or say that you will find a safe and legal place to stop and phone back.
  • If you're an employer then you should issue specific company advice on mobile phone use as part of your work-related road safety policy.

Calling someone's mobile

If you call someone and think that they might be driving, ask them:

  • Are you driving?
  • Is it safe to talk?
  • Do you want to call me when it is safe to stop?

(10 July 2012)