Hadi Law

Who would have predicted 15 years ago that mobile phones would become the centre of most people’s lives. Paying for goods and services, keeping in contact with friends and family, ordering in restaurants, and booking travel – all this and more is now done through a little device that few of us leave home without. In our ‘always connected’ world, not having access to our phones for even a few minutes can create anxiety. And as for driving, where you may be travelling for up to 30 minutes or more, the urge to check your phone can be irresistible. However, before you do, it is vital to remember that in England and Wales, it is illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send or receive data, while driving a motor vehicle or riding a motorcycle.

What is the Law Around Mobile Phone Use When Driving in England and Wales?

Since March 2022, using a mobile phone in any way has become illegal while driving. This includes messaging, talking, scrolling the internet (including music apps such as Spotify), taking photos, and playing games.

Before the new laws were introduced, the Department for Transport conducted research on drivers’ mobile phone use. Following a survey of 2,241 UK adults aged 16+, of whom 1,788 were motorists, researchers found:

  1. 59% of respondents felt a need to check their phones out of habit rather than for a particular reason
  2. 56% could not imagine life without a smartphone
  3. 12% stated they needed to see notifications as soon as they appeared so they could quickly respond
  4. 12% used their phone whilst driving long distances to fill in time
  5. 14% did not believe they were distracted when using their mobile phone

When it came to age-related behaviour:

“Younger motorists aged 16-24 and 25-34 generally felt more attached to mobile phones, both in their lives and while driving. They were more likely to feel attached to their phones than average (62% and 69% respectively, against 49% overall), feel the need to use their phone to see notifications as they come through (22% of those aged 16-24 and 21% of those aged 25-34, against 12% overall), or for filling the time of commuting or long journeys (20% and 22%, against 12%) and think using their phone while driving does not distract them (21% and 22%, against 14%).”

The then Transport Secretary, Mr Grant Shapps stated the changes introduced in 2022 were designed to increase safety and shut a loophole where drivers could claim they were not using their phone for “interactive communication”, as these laws had become outdated following the widespread adoption of smartphones.

Mr Shapps told Parliament:

“I will do everything in my power to keep road users safe, which is why I’m taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who decide to risk lives by using their phone behind the wheel.

I’m ensuring anyone who chooses to break this vital law can face punishment for doing so, and we will continue our efforts to ensure our roads remain among the safest in the world.”

What is the Penalty for Using a Mobile Phone Whilst Driving?

If you are caught, you could be fined as much as £1,000 (£2,500 for HGV drivers), receive six penalty points on your licence, and even be disqualified from driving.

Can I Use a Hands-Free Device?

Yes, provided you refrain from holding them at any time. Hands-free access means using, for example:

  1. Bluetooth headset
  2. Voice command
  3. Dashboard holder or mat
  4. Windscreen mount
  5. Built-in satellite navigation (Sat Nav)

Your hands-free device must not block your driving view.

Can I use my mobile phone if I am stopped at traffic lights?

No, the illegal use of mobile phones in England and Wales covers the following scenarios:

  1. You are stopped at traffic lights
  2. You are queuing in traffic
  3. You are supervising a learner driver
  4. You are driving a car that automatically turns off the engine when you stop
  5. Your device is offline or in flight mode

Are there any situations where I can use my mobile phone when driving?

There are limited exceptions where using a mobile phone while driving is not illegal. They are:

  1. You need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency, and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop (for example, you are on a motorway)
  2. You are safely parked
  3. You are making a contactless payment in a vehicle that is not moving, for example, at a motorway toll booth or drive-through restaurant
  4. You are remotely parking your car using your mobile phone

Concluding comments

If you have been caught using your mobile phone whilst driving in England and Wales, you need to speak to an experienced Motoring Law Solicitor, especially if you have received a court summons. They can analyse your case and advise you on whether you have a defence. If a conviction results in you having more than 12 points on your licence within three years, you will be automatically disqualified from driving. A Solicitor has the knowledge and experience to argue that losing your licence would result in exceptional hardship for yourself or others.

For further information on using a mobile phone whilst driving, please speak to our motoring offences law team on 01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline on 07869760533.

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