Road safety: driving while using a mobile phone Contents

2The law

4.Since 2003 it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held device while driving, when that device is making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function.4 The particular use to which the device must be put is not defined. There are exceptions for using a mobile phone in an emergency, such as to phone the police, fire, ambulance or other emergency service.5 In 2003, when he announced that the Government would proceed with the new offence, the then Transport Minister stated:

The offence will […] apply to drivers speaking or listening to a phone call, using a device interactively for accessing any sort of data, which would include the Internet, sending or receiving text messages or other images if it is held in the driver’s hand during at least part of the period of its operation.6

The offence only applies to hand-held devices, and the then Minister stated that while the Department considered that drivers should not use hands-free phones, it was not proposed to include these within the scope of the new regulation due to enforcement difficulties.

5.This offence is subject to a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £200, and six penalty points. For new drivers (who have passed their test in the previous 2 years), the six points would mean that their licence was automatically revoked.7 Motorists do not have to accept an FPN, but then face the prospect of proceedings in a Magistrates Court. If the matter comes before a Court the judge can choose to impose a disqualification and/or a maximum fine of up to £1,000 for car drivers and £2,500 for HGV and bus drivers. In addition to being an offence in itself, use of a mobile phone or other hand-held device can be a contributory factor in the charging of other offences that are subject to much higher penalties—such as careless/inconsiderate or dangerous driving and, in the most serious cases where death occurs, causing death by careless or dangerous driving—or lower penalties such as driving without due care and attention.

4 Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, Regulation 110 (inserted by the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003)

5 These rules also apply to those supervising a learner driver.

7, Penalty points (endorsements): new drivers, accessed May 2019

Published: 13 August 2019