All drivers should be aware it's illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving. But a Department of Transport report has shown that possibly as many as 374,000 drivers had used their handheld mobile in 2017.
Since 1 March 2017 drivers caught using a handheld mobile have faced a fine of £200 and 6 penalty points – double the previous punishment of a £100 fine and 3 penalty points.
Yet the rate of enforcement against drivers using mobile phones in cars has dropped since 2011.
A survey of AA Members in 2017 showed that more than half (54%) thought they wouldn't get caught using a handheld phone, compared with just a third (35%) who think they could get away with speeding.1
It's not just dangerous to drive using a handheld mobile, it can also be expensive too, to the tune of around £900. Here's how the costs add up.
What are the penalties if you're caught driving with a mobile?
You'll get an immediate fine of £200, 6 points on your licence, and if you've passed your test less than 2 years ago, you'll lose your licence.
Your insurance premium could increase by up to 40% when the policy is renewed, costing up to £700 for an average comprehensive policy. And you could pay an increased premium for up to 5 years.2 Some insurers may not provide cover.
Why does the cost of insurance go up if you're caught with a mobile phone?
Your premiums will increase because you're considered a 'convicted driver'. Drivers with motoring convictions are viewed as higher risk and insurers have to cover this.
Regardless of why you used your phone, insurers will see you as more likely to be involved in an accident and to make a claim.
What do you do if an insurer refuses to give you cover after a mobile phone offence
It can be difficult to find insurance if you've been caught driving with a mobile phone.
We compared premiums quoted by nine insurance companies, for a 'clean' driver, and ones with speeding and mobile phone offences over a 5-year period. Of the nine, five wouldn't offer cover for a driver with a mobile phone offence.2
You can shop around and find insurers who are willing to cover you – commonly called convicted driver insurance – but you may find that you pay a very high premium. Your costs will go down once the offence is wiped from your record after 5 years.
Is car insurance invalid immediately after you're caught using a mobile phone?
No. Your insurance will still cover you, and you don't have to tell your insurer until you renew your policy. This is when the cost of your premium could go up, or your insurer may refuse to provide cover.
How does driving with a mobile phone affect drivers?
Driving with a handheld mobile is very distracting: you can't keep both hands on the wheel, control the car properly, or focus fully on the road.
Can I use a mobile to film or photograph dangerous driving?
The government recently closed a legal loophole which let drivers escape prosecution for using hand-held phones behind the wheel. Some drivers were dodging punishment by recording videos or taking photos to report dangerous driving.
The updated law means any driver caught texting, taking photos, browsing the internet or scrolling through a playlist while behind the wheel will be prosecuted for using a handheld mobile phone while driving.
What if I'm driving and need to use a handheld mobile phone
Before you set off, set your phone to silent and pop it in the glove box, so you won't be tempted to check it while you're driving.
If you forget to lock your phone away and it rings or pings while you're driving, or you need to contact someone, here's what to do.
- If you're driving with a passenger, ask them to check your phone for you.
- Don't look down at your phone or answer it, no matter how quick you think the call will be.
- Keep your focus fully on the road and pull over into a safe location. You can then use your phone.
- Even if you have a hands-free phone, keep the conversation short and simple, or say that you'll find a safe place to stop and phone back.
And remember that if you attach your phone to the dashboard:
- It's got to be out of your direct line of vision.
- If you're using your phone as a satnav, you must have a preset route in place.
- Single-click use of a phone operating as a satnav is OK – for instance if you're selecting a new route due to traffic issues.
1 AA-Populus driver poll 12–20 December 2017. 19,506 drivers were interviewed in an online poll on the likelihood of being caught committing various driving offences.
2 AA press release 2018, AA highlights true cost of a mobile phone offence.