In 2020, over 11 million UK motorists admitted to making or receiving phone calls on their handheld mobile phones. Following the changes in March 2022, motorists are now breaking the law if they use a handheld device behind the wheel for any purpose. This includes taking photos, scrolling through music playlists, updating a map or using streaming services. Using a phone while driving is a concern for a number of reasons and puts the driver, pedestrians and other drivers at risk. 

What are the mobile phone driving laws?

After the recent updates, it’s now illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any other handheld device that can send or receive data whilst driving. Many drivers also forget that the law still applies if they are stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or are supervising a learner driver. 

Here’s a simple breakdown of the laws and regulations surrounding using your phone when driving in the UK. 

  • Drivers must never use a handheld device when behind the wheel
  • Should a driver break the law, they can receive up to 6 penalty points and a £200 fine
  • Drivers could lose their licence if they passed their driving test within the last 2 years
  • Drivers can get a further 3 penalty points if they do not have a full view of the road due to the obstruction of a handheld device
  • Lorry and bus drivers can be taken to court where they can be banned from driving and receive a maximum fine of £1,000 – or up to £2,500 
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When can you use a phone in a vehicle?

To put it simply, it is only legal to use a phone if you are safely parked, and this does not include waiting in traffic or sitting at lights.

There are however some small allowances. For instance, you are allowed to make an emergency service call on a hand-held device while driving, but only if it’s unsafe to stop. Drivers can also make a contactless payment in a vehicle that is not moving or use a mobile phone if it is being used to park their car remotely through a modern, electric vehicle.

Hands-free driving laws

There are two main things to remember when using a hands-free device. One, you must never hold your device behind the wheel and two, your phone must be hands-free in order to be used for communication. 

Although many campaigners want to introduce stricter rules around hand-free devices, there are currently no laws surrounding this topic. Any hands-free device should be fully set up before you drive and they must not block the view of the road in any way, especially if you’re taking a long road trip or will travelling on busy roads such as the motorway. This advice is always given as the police still have the power to stop you if they believe you have been distracted whilst driving, even if from a fully hands-free phone.

Find out more from our motorway driving guide.

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What are the penalties for using your phone while driving in the UK?

  • Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 plus six penalty points on your licence
  • A further 3 penalty points if they do not have a full view of the road and traffic ahead
  • Taken to court where they can be banned from driving and receive a maximum fine of £1,000

Could you lose your driving licence for using a phone?

The short answer is yes. Especially if you’re a new driver or the use of the phone leads to more series consequences.

If someone who has held a licence for less than two years is caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel, they will lose their licence as well as it affect car insurance premiums. 

It’s also important to remember that drivers are only allowed to build up six penalty points in their first two years whilst more experienced motorists can lose their licence if they obtain 12 points in a three-year term.

Motorists involved in an accident caused by a hand-held device can face tough penalties too. In fact, the government is considering increasing the penalty for causing death by dangerous or careless driving from 14 years to life imprisonment.

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