Mobile phone use and driving
Under the Road Safety Act, from 1 March 2017 motorists using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel will be punished with six points on their license, a £200 fine and have no option of a remedial course – whether you are making a call, using it on loudspeaker, texting, filming, taking a picture or using the internet, or sitting stationary in traffic.
Young and inexperienced drivers are also being warned that this one mistake could cost them their licence as six points is enough to revoke a driving licence is you have had it less than two years.
The new rules apply across England, Scotland and Wales, with drivers caught breaking the new law for a second time potentially facing a £1,000 fine and a six-month driving ban.
In light of the change to the law, we have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions that users of mobile phones and hands-free kits have asked.
What does the new law mean?
It is a specific offence to use a hand-held phone when driving. A hand-held device is something that “is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function.” A motorist can regard driving as meaning a vehicle with the engine running.
In simple terms you can use a mobile phone as long as you don’t hold it and you can’t use a mobile phone while holding it if the engine is running.
How much is the fine for using a mobile phone when driving?
The fine is now £200 and six penalty points. This is a drastic increase from the previous punishment as the government want to discourage the widespread use of mobile phones while driving, similar to their campaign around drink driving.
Drivers caught breaking the new law for a second time potentially face a £1,000 fine and a six-month driving ban.
Can I use a hands-free kit while I’m driving?
Yes, hands-free kits remain exempt but should be placed in cradles which are attached to the dashboard. Pushing buttons is permissible while the phone is in a cradle or on the steering wheel and you don’t hold the phone.
Will I get stopped by police if I’m using a hands-free kit?
If you are stopped by police and you are using a hands-free kit while driving, you can still face prosecution under other motoring laws.
If your driving is erratic, the police can charge you with driving without due care and attention, not being in proper control of the vehicle or even dangerous driving.
Can motorists use their in-car infotainment units while driving?
Similar to the above answer, in theory yes as long as it doesn’t cause you to drive erratically and without due care and attention.
The Government guidelines state that use of devices is only prohibited if the device performs an interactive communication function. Therefore, if the device does not perform this type of function, you can use it without breaking the law.
Can I use a mobile phone when I am stationary in traffic?
This is a common misconception and the answer is no. The regulations state that driving includes time when stopped at traffic lights or during other hold-ups while your engine is running, so you can’t use your mobile phone.
Can I make emergency calls?
There is an exemption for making 999 calls to the emergency services where it is unsafe or impractical for you to stop.
Who do the regulations apply to?
The regulations apply to drivers of all motor vehicles including cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis. They also apply to anyone supervising a learner driver, while the learner is driving.
What will happen to my insurance if I’m caught using a mobile phone?
In theory, an insurance company could refuse to pay for damage to your car if you were breaking the law and using your mobile phone at the time of the accident.
The knock-on effect on your insurance as a result could include a loss of your no claims bonus which would lead to an insurance premium increase by at least 50 per cent.
On top of this, some insurance companies increase premiums for drivers with penalty points – this means that breaking the law around mobile phone use will not only cost you a steep fine and points, but could also increase your premium.