Mobile Phone Use While Driving: A UK Driver’s Guide to the Law

March 21, 2024 10:52 am
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Mobile Phone Use While Driving

Using a mobile phone while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Drivers talking, texting or using apps on a phone are much more likely to be involved in a collision than focused motorists. In fact, research from the road safety charity Brake shows that phone use makes you four times more likely to crash.

To combat these risks, the UK has strict laws limiting phone use behind the wheel. While some actions are completely banned, other uses are still permitted if done safely. Understanding exactly where the line is drawn according to current legislation can help drivers stay compliant and attentive.

This guide will provide an overview of the existing mobile phone driving laws in the UK, penalties for breaking them, and tips for minimising distractions from phones when behind the wheel. Staying informed on the latest rules and best practices can help motorists avoid fines, bans and harm to themselves and fellow road users caused by diverted attention.


Current UK Laws on Mobile Phone Use


The traffic offence code for using a handheld phone while driving is CU80. This refers to Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which reads:

“A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road must not hold or use a handheld mobile telephone or other handheld interactive communication device.”

The key laws governing mobile phone use while operating a vehicle in the UK include:

  • Handheld Ban – It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or similar device while driving. This includes making/receiving calls, texting, accessing social media or any other app use.
  • Hands-Free Allowed – Drivers are permitted to make calls or use voice commands in a fully hands-free manner by pairing a phone to a headset or dashboard kit. The phone itself must remain mounted and not be handled.
  • Enforcement – Police have the right to stop and fine any driver visibly holding and engaging with a handheld device while driving. Exceptions are made only for calls immediately dialling 999 in an emergency.
  • Parked or Stopped – Use of handheld devices is only permitted legally once the engine is turned off and the vehicle is safely parked out of active traffic lanes. Stopped at lights or in congestion still constitutes active driving.

Violating these laws by using a handheld phone while driving can incur serious penalties. However, utilising available hands-free functions responsibly remains a legal option if needed while on the move.


Penalties for Illegal Mobile Phone Use


The consequences for being caught breaking handheld phone use laws while driving can include:

  • Fixed Penalty Fine – This is £200 for a first offence and £500 for subsequent offences if paid within 28 days. Fines increase up to £1,000 if contested in court.
  • Licence Points – Offenders receive 6 penalty points on their driver’s licence for each incident. Accumulating 12+ points within 3 years can trigger a driving ban.
  • Court Summons – Those who contest the charge in court and are convicted face higher fines and the possibility of a driving disqualification.
  • Discretionary Driving Bans – In serious cases that involve collisions or repeated violations, magistrates can implement discretionary bans up to 6 months even for first time offenders.
  • Insurance Costs – A conviction for mobile phone use while driving often leads to increased car insurance premiums for 3-5 years afterwards.

The financial penalties, points, licence suspension and insurance rate hikes demonstrate the substantial risks drivers take when caught improperly using a handheld phone behind the wheel.


Safe Driving Tips


To help motorists abide by the law and minimise risky distractions, here are some safe driving tips regarding mobile phones:

  • Invest in a quality hands-free kit or Bluetooth system so you can take calls legally without handling your phone.
  • Use voice commands and assistants to dictate messages, set reminders and make calls hands-free.
  • Pull over safely to the side of the road if you need to use your phone for anything requiring you to handle it.
  • Adjust settings like audio playlists and map directions before you start driving.
  • Let any passengers make calls or send texts for you on their phones if urgent.
  • Enable do not disturb modes that mute calls and alerts while driving. Respond later when parked.
  • Stay focused on the road rather than fiddling with music playlists or podcasts.

Following these tips allows you to use phone features safely and legally. Don’t compromise your concentration – it’s always best to pull over if handling your phone while driving.


Changes on the Horizon


While the current UK laws prohibit handheld phone use behind the wheel, additional restrictions and tougher consequences have been proposed to curb dangerous distracted driving. Some changes under consideration include:

  • Banning all phone use while driving, including hands-free. This would mean no calling or texting even with dashboard kits.
  • Introducing a “zero tolerance” approach with licence points for first offences rather than just fines.
  • Significantly increasing fixed penalty fines to over £1,000 per violation.
  • Using developing technologies to detect phone signals in cars to improve enforcement.
  • Applying bans to experienced drivers, not just newly licensed motorists.
  • Investing in public education on distraction risks beyond phone use like adjusting car settings.
  • Requiring dash cam evidence to dispute phone use charges.

While a total ban on hands-free devices seems unlikely for now, the trends point toward progressive steps to close loopholes allowing distracted driving. Drivers should be prepared for an even more hardline approach ahead.




Using a phone while driving dramatically increases crash risks by diverting attention from the road and traffic conditions. Current UK laws strictly prohibit handling a mobile phone behind the wheel outside of emergencies to address these dangers.

While hands-free options are still permitted, drivers should minimise phone interactions as much as possible. Following distractions like text messages and playlists are also unsafe. The best approach is to always pull over or wait until parked safely before engaging with your mobile device.

With fines reaching £1,000 and licence bans possible for repeat offenders, the consequences for illegal phone use while driving are severe. As technology advances, enforcement and penalties seem likely to increase as well.

Staying up-to-date on the latest regulations, embracing safer habits, and using phone features only when completely focused on driving is key to avoiding expensive risks that endanger everyone sharing the road. We all have a role to play in reducing distracted driving.

Here at Driving Solicitors, we specialise in motor law and can represent you for anything from drug driving law to speeding fines. Get in touch with our knowledgeable team today.