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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Mobile phones and driving

Using your mobile phone when driving or riding a vehicle is dangerous. If you’re caught using a hand-held phone while driving, you could be prosecuted. Find out why using your phone when driving is distracting, what the penalties are and when it is safe to use your phone.

The law on using hand-held phones and similar devices while driving


Reaction times for drivers using hand-held phones are 30 per cent slower than reaction times for drivers who have been drinking at the legal limit

It is illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorcycle while using a hand-held mobile phone. This also applies to any similar device (that must be held at some point) to:

  • send or receive spoken or written messages or still or moving images
  • access the internet

These devices include smartphones or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

While driving, you must not use your hand-held mobile phone, smartphone or PDA:

  • to make or receive calls
  • to send or receive picture and text messages
  • to access the internet
  • when you're stopped at traffic lights
  • when you're queuing in traffic

It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone when supervising a learner driver or rider.

If you're an employer, you can be prosecuted if you ask your employees to make or receive calls while driving.

The penalties for using your phone while driving

If you're caught using a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving or riding, you can expect to get an automatic fixed penalty notice. This means you'll get three penalty points on your driving licence and have to pay a fine of £60.

However, your case may go to court. If it does, you may also face disqualification from driving or riding on top of a maximum fine of £1,000. If you're a driver of a bus or goods vehicle, you could face a maximum fine of £2,500.

If you reach six or more penalty points within two years of passing your test, you'll lose your licence under the New Drivers Act. You’ll need to re-sit your driving test to get your licence back.

Why using your phone while driving is dangerous

If your mobile rings while you're driving, let it go to a message service or call divert - pick up your messages when you're stopped

Making or taking phone calls when driving will distract you. Research shows that if you’re using any mobile phone when driving, you're four times more likely to crash. You also have significantly worse reaction times than someone driving after drinking alcohol at the legal limit.

To find out how difficult it is to focus on several things while driving, try the Driving Challenge. This online game highlights the dangers of using your phone when driving.

When you can use a hand-held phone in your vehicle

You should only use your mobile phone in a vehicle if you:

  • need to call 999 or 112 in response to a genuine emergency where it's unsafe or impracticable to stop
  • are safely parked (but never stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway unless it’s an emergency)
  • are a passenger

Using hands-free phones, sat-navs and two-way radios when driving

It’s not illegal to use hands-free phones, sat-navs (satellite navigation systems) and two-way radios while driving, but they can be a distraction. You'll face the same penalties as using a phone if the police believe you’re not in proper control of your vehicle.

If you call someone when they’re driving

If you call someone and they are driving, arrange to speak later and hang up.

If you keep talking, you’re putting them at risk of an accident and encouraging them to break the law.

Additional links

Your eyes will give you away

Find out how drugs impair your driving and how the police can spot drug drivers

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