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 risk to road safety when 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 risk to road safety when using a mobile phone while driving.

Holly Cox
Digital expert
4
minute read
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Last Updated 7 FEBRUARY 2023

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

If you’re caught using a mobile phone while driving, you should expect to face a fine as part of your punishment.  

The current penalties for using a mobile phone while driving are: 

  • A fixed-penalty notice – a £200 fine and six penalty points for using a handheld phone when driving 
  • New drivers who have passed their test in the past two 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). 

From 28 June 2022, the UK government increased the penalty for causing death as a result of using a handheld device while driving from 14 years to life imprisonment, as it falls into the dangerous driving or careless driving category.

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 just for a short time, even when you’re queuing in traffic, even when you’re stopped at a traffic light. The mobile phone driving law also applies if you’re supervising a learner driver. A loophole that allowed people to take photos and videos on their phone has been closed.

Using a handheld mobile phone is considered a distraction from driving that prevents you from staying in full control of your vehicle. The Department for Transport says that If a driver looks at their phone for just two seconds when travelling at 30 miles per hour, they will travel almost 100 feet blind – drastically increasing the chance of an accident.

The only legal exemptions for using a handheld phone 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
  • If you're making a contactless payment from the car (the car must have stopped)
  • If you’re using the device to park your car remotely.

What about hands-free devices?

Hands-free use of your phone while driving is legal, if it’s set up correctly with a handsfree aid, such as:

  • Bluetooth headset 
  • Built-in voice command computer 
  • Dashboard cradle 
  • Windscreen mount 
  • Built-in sat nav. 

Make sure any hands-free phone is attached to the windscreen or dashboard and doesn’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, as if you receive a penalty, it could affect the cost of your insurance.

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

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

Looking for car insurance now? Let us help you find the right car insurance to suit your needs.

Frequently asked questions

Can I lose my driving licence for using my phone while driving?

Yes, potentially. If you’re caught using your phone while driving, you’ll receive six penalty points on your licence (as well as a fine). If this takes you over your limit, you will lose your licence.

If you’re a new driver who only passed their driving test in the last two years, you’ll lose your licence.

Finally, if you’re taken to court over the incident, you could receive a driving ban.

Can I use my phone as a sat nav?

Yes, as long as you’re using it hands-free, attached to your windscreen or dashboard on a mount or phone holder, you can use your phone as a sat nav. Just don’t take it out of its holder or use it while driving. That’s illegal. Your phone must also not obstruct your view of the road.

Can I use my mobile phone while supervising a learner driver?

It’s illegal to use a mobile phone if you’re supervising a learner driver. You need to be able to help the learner to control the car at any given moment. That means you can be charged for using a mobile phone while sat in a passenger seat. 

Can I use my mobile phone to pay for items at a drive-through restaurant?

Yes, the UK government introduced a new law change to allow contactless payments using a mobile device. However, the car must be stationary and the goods or service received immediately – in a drive-through restaurant, for example.

Can I touch my mobile phone while driving if I’m not holding it?

Although current motoring rules ban drivers from holding or using their mobile phone when behind the wheel, no rules mention a ban on touching your phone. However, the police can stop you if they believe you’re distracted and not in proper control of the vehicle. So, that means no texting, making a phone call or even choosing the next song on the playlist.

How do the police catch people using their phone while driving?

Police officers are trained to observe road users carefully. Telltale signs that people are using their phone when driving could include drivers who regularly look down towards their lap or are slow to set off once a traffic light has turned green.

If you’re suspected of using your phone while driving, the police can also use their dashcam footage as evidence.

Where should I mount my mobile phone in my car?

Although it isn’t illegal to fix your phone to the windscreen, a larger or badly positioned device could be deemed to obstruct your view of the road. One way to make sure that your phone doesn’t obstruct your view is by fixing it to the dashboard in an area that doesn’t block your vision. 

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