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The penalties for using a mobile phone while driving

The penalties for using a mobile phone while driving

There’s no getting away from the fact that using your mobile phone while driving is illegal and incredibly dangerous.

Yet despite highly publicised Government-backed awareness campaigns and the hefty increase in penalties, too many people still underestimate the risks of using a mobile phone while driving. 

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
minute read
posted 26 NOVEMBER 2019

What are the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving?

If you are caught using a mobile phone while driving, then you should expect to face a fine as part of your punishment. The penalties were increased for this in 2017, with a typical fine increasing from £60 to £200 to deter drivers from being distracted by their phone.

The current penalties for using a mobile phone while driving, introduced on 1 March 2017, are:

  • You can get a fixed penalty notice – a £200 fine and 6 penalty points for using a hand-held phone when driving
  • You can get 3 penalty points if you don’t have full view of the road ahead or proper control of the vehicle.
  • New drivers who have passed their test in the last 2 years will automatically lose their licence
  • If taken to court you could face disqualification and a fine of up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or a bus).

The government is also considering increasing the penalty for causing death as a result of using a hand-held device while driving, from 14 years to life imprisonment, as it falls into the dangerous or careless driving category.

Yet drivers are still using mobiles behind the wheel

According to the RAC’s 2017 Report on Motoring, there’s been a significant drop in the number of drivers admitting to making or receiving calls on hand-held devices: from 31% in 2016 to 23% in 2017.

Overall, 40% of drivers named hand-held mobile phone use as one of their top four road safety concerns.

Despite the introduction of tougher penalties and awareness of the dangers through campaigns such as the RAC’s Be Phone Smart campaign, one in five UK motorists still flout the law by using a handheld mobile while driving. 
Since the new penalties came into force, more than 26,000 motorists have been stopped by police for using their mobile phone while driving. 

And it’s not just mobile phones that are causing concern. Smartwatches are thought to pose an even greater risk to drivers. Research has found that checking smartwatches while driving can cause drivers to lose concentration and react more slowly to hazards on the road.

What is the law for using a mobile phone while driving?

It’s illegal to hold a mobile phone in your hand while driving – even if you just pick it up for a moment. 

Using a handheld mobile is considered a distraction from driving which, according to the law, prevents you from staying in full control of your vehicle.  

The mobile phone driving law also applies if:

  • you stop at traffic lights
  • you’re stuck in a traffic jam
  • your vehicle is in automatic ‘stop-start’ mode
  • you’re a passenger who is supervising a learner driver

The only times you are legally allowed to use a handheld mobile in your car are:

  • if you’re safely parked (not in traffic)
  • if you need to call 999 emergency services and it’s not safe to stop

What about hands-free devices?

You’re allowed to use your phone while driving if it’s set up correctly with a hands-free device such as a:

  • bluetooth headset
  • built-in voice command computer
  • dashboard cradle
  • windscreen mount
  • built-in sat nav

Make sure any devices attached to the windscreen or dashboard don’t obscure your view of the road.

How could a mobile phone penalty affect your car insurance?

Motorists don’t just have a hefty fine to worry about if they are caught using their phone while driving. A CU80 mobile penalty could also result in higher insurance premiums of up to 40% when it comes to renewing their car insurance.  

Some insurance providers may even refuse to insure a driver with a CU80 mobile offence.

So, if you want to keep yourself and others safe as well as avoiding hefty penalties, don’t use a handheld mobile when driving.  

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