Mobile Phones 

The Facts

Mobile Phones

  • All phone calls distract from driving.
  • Research demonstrates that reaction times for drivers using a handheld phone are 30 per cent worse than for driving under the influence of alcohol at the legal limit.
  • Research shows that using a mobile phone while driving means you are four times more likely to crash.
  • Research has shown that those using a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to crash.
  • Using any type of mobile - be it hands free or handheld - means reaction times are worse than those driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Tests have shown that reaction times are slower by some 50 per cent when compared to normal driving.
  • Even careful drivers can be distracted by a phone call or text message and that split second lapse in concentration could result in a crash

The Law

  • It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving. The penalty is £60 and 3 penalty points. If the case goes to court, it's a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if driving a bus, coach or heavy goods vehicle), discretionary disqualification and 3 points.
  • Your insurance costs could also go up.
  • If you reach 6 points within 2 years of passing your test, your licence will be revoked and you will need to re-sit your test to get your licence back.
  • You can also be prosecuted for using a hands free phone or similar device if you are distracted and not in proper control of the vehicle. The same penalties apply.  Employers could also be prosecuted if employees are distracted because they require them to use their mobile phones while driving.


What counts as 'driving'?
Driving is using a motor vehicle on the road and can include when a vehicle is stopped at traffic lights or during a traffic hold-up. Therefore you should not use that time to make or receive a call. Park safely (but not on the motorway hard shoulder) and then use the phone.

A road is legally defined as any road to which the public have access - this includes car parks.

What are the penalties?
If you receive a roadside fixed penalty notice, you will get 3 points on your licence and a fine of £60. If a case goes to court, in addition to the points, you could face discretionary disqualification on top of a maximum fine of £1,000 (or £2,500 for drivers of buses/coaches and goods vehicles).

Why don't you just make it illegal to use all mobiles, hands free and handheld, when driving?
Using a hands free phone or other equipment is not specifically prohibited because it is difficult for police to see it in use. But driving poorly because you are distracted by using a phone (or for any other reason) means the police can prosecute you for failing to have proper control of the vehicle.  The same penalty applies as for handheld phones.

If there is an incident or a crash, the use of any phone could be justification for charges of careless or dangerous driving. The penalties on conviction for such offences include heavy fines, endorsement, disqualification and, in serious cases, imprisonment. Courts are taking a serious view in such cases.

How can a police officer prove that I was on the phone?
If you drive poorly a police officer can stop you and seek a reason for the poor driving. If it goes to court, in some cases your phone records can be checked to determine whether you were using your phone.

Can I ever use a handheld phone while driving?
There is an exception for calls to 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency where it would be unsafe or impractical to stop. Using two-way radio equipment when driving is not a specific offence. Remember that a conversation could still distract from the concentration needed to drive safely. If you do not have proper control, then the police can still take action.

What if a mobile phone in my car rings? Or if I phone someone who is driving?
Let it ring and return the call when you are able to park in a safe place. It would be better to switch to voicemail before starting.

If you phone someone who is driving, say you will phone later and hang up.

Do I have to switch off all the phones in my car?
No, because passengers may want to use a phone. If you are driving on your own, we advise that if you do not switch your phone off, you should switch it to voicemail, message service or call diversion. Ring back when you are safely parked.

What if my employer tells me I have to use the phone?
Employers should not ask their staff to make or receive calls on any mobile phone while driving. They could be liable for prosecution if they 'cause or permit' employees to use a mobile phone while driving.

Employers are legally required to include driving at work risks in their health and safety policies

What about cyclists?
It is not a specific offence to cycle and use a mobile phone, but cyclists could be prosecuted by the police for careless or dangerous cycling. Cyclists need to concentrate like all other road users. They should not do anything that would affect their concentration and put themselves and other road users in danger.

Is the use of a 2-way radio while driving prohibited?
The use of a 2-way radio (eg a CB radio) when driving is not specifically prohibited.  However, there is still a risk of distraction and prosecution if you are distracted by the use of one while driving.

If a device is a dual or multi-purpose device that can be used both as a mobile phone and a 2-way radio, the use of the device while driving (or supervising a provisional licence holder) is prohibited whether the device is being used as a 2-way radio or as a mobile phone.


Related Information

Related Resources

Page Last Updated on 14/9/2011