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Mobile Phone Safety When Driving: The Law

 Published 20th December 2016
Driver Guides 

Think back to the last time you used your mobile phone while driving. Don't deny it. Everyone is guilty to some extent, whether it's taking a call, reading a text or even rejecting a call.

Too many people are killed because drivers use their phones. There is absolutely no excuse.

The second that phone beeps you are distracted from the road. A quick glance at a text message is just as potentially dangerous as taking a call. It doesn't matter if you are awaiting news on a big client or anxious to hear from somebody. All it takes is for one person to brake up ahead or someone to step out from behind a parked car. Sending an important email will be the least of your worries.

Even if you ignore your phone when it sounds, it can set your mind wandering, therefore reducing your attention.

The easiest solution is of course to switch it off or keep the phone out of reach. But there's no point in pretending this sort of behaviour would catch on. The temptation is too great.

Hands-free or no call at all?

You might argue that using hands-free provides a safe alternative. Comparatively it might, but ask yourself: could you live with yourself if you caused a fatal accident while you were on a call, even if it were hands free?

In fact, using a hands-free phone while driving does not significantly reduce the risks of an accident. This is because accidents are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a phone conversation - hand-held or otherwise. Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free:

  • are much less aware of what's happening on the road around them
  • fail to see road signs
  • fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
  • are more likely to 'tailgate' the vehicle in front
  • react more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
  • are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
  • feel more stressed and frustrated

You are not immune

The bottom line is that using a hand-held device while driving, riding or cycling is illegal.

Yet many motorists don't seem to think this law applies to them personally, despite one horrific accident occurring after another.

It's almost as though some of us step into our vehicle under the illusion we are entering our own world of legal immunity. Just because you are locked away safely in your box doesn't mean you can break the law - an obvious thing to say yet something it seems we need to be constantly reminded of.


Often we are so preoccupied with work and our daily routines we take the simple risks of driving for granted.

Mobile phone & driving: the law

Since December 1, 2003 it has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. Initially, there was a fixed penalty of £30 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the offender went to court (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles with 9 or more passenger seats).

Did you know?

However, from February 27, 2007, the penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving increased to £100 with three penalty points added to the drivers' licence.

A few months ago the Mirror ran a sting operation to expose and shame a handful of drivers who they caught using their mobile devices while driving on two of the UK's busiest motorways. The newspaper called for stiffer penalties to be put in place.

Useful information you should know:

  • It is still illegal to use your phone while stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • It is still illegal to use your phone when supervising a learner driver or rider.

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