Mobile Phone Driving Laws and Penalties Explained

While the Telegraph has reported that driving offences have been significantly reduced due to the introduction of tougher driving laws, there is still a significant amount of drivers still attempting to use a mobile phone while at the wheel.

It was stated that 39,000 fixed penalty notices were given out between March and December 2017.

If you have been accused of committing a similar driving offence involving a mobile phone, or you would simply like more information on the topic, read on to find out what is and is not allowed when driving, and the maximum penalties for doing so.

What is the law on driving and using a phone?

To reduce the number of accidents on UK roads that have involved drivers using a mobile phone or handheld device, the law has become a lot stricter in the last few years, handing out more severe offences and changing to accommodate how technology is developing.

Essentially, the law states that drivers cannot interact with a mobile phone in any way while they are driving (there are a few exceptions listed towards the end of this post).

An interaction means anything from answering a call or sending a text message to checking social media. Basically, anytime you touch the screen and it takes your eyes off the road traffic, you are breaking the law.

What is the definition of a “hands-free” device?

However, drivers are allowed to use a mobile phone “hands-free”, which means interacting with a device without actually touching the screen or looking at it.

This can be done if the device is propped up with a holder on the windscreen or dashboard, or if you are simply using voice commands to control it. The following examples would constitute using your mobile phone hands-free:

  • Using a voice command
  • Talking through a Bluetooth headset
  • Using a dashboard mount (the equivalent of a sat-nav)
  • Using a built-in touchscreen or sat nav while driving (ideally operating Apple Carplay or Android Auto)


To further explain the law on committing an offence while using a phone while driving, there are also the following guidelines:

A mobile phone cannot block your view of the road

If your device is held in a windscreen or dashboard mount, this cannot block the drivers’ view of the road. Doing so would jeopardise their ability to drive and may cause an accident if they cannot see other vehicles or any other obstructions on the road ahead of them.

A mobile phone should not distract you from driving

Even if you are using a mobile phone while it is attached to a dashboard mount or even through a touchscreen in your vehicle, if it distracts you from driving you can still be pulled over by the police.

If they believe you are not in full control of your vehicle because of a mobile phone, the same penalties can be handed out, even if it is hands-free.

A mobile phone cannot be used when you are stopped in traffic or at traffic lights

Despite your vehicle being at a standstill, it is still illegal to use a mobile phone while the engine is still running.

This can distract you from reacting to lights or the movement of other vehicles. Many drivers are still penalised for using their mobile phone in this manner and can still receive the same penalties as someone driving.

A mobile phone cannot be used when supervising a learner driver

Lastly, the law states that if you are supervising a learner driver (learners can be supervised on the road by someone at least 21 years of age and with a full UK driving licence), you should also not become distracted by a mobile phone.

That means even if you are not driving yourself, by supervising you cannot use a mobile phone, as you are also responsible for the operation of the vehicle.

When can a mobile phone be used in a car?

While the law is very strict on the usage of a mobile phone while driving, there are two exceptions to the rule:

  • When the car is safely parked – a mobile phone can be used if you are stationary, or the engine isn’t running and safely parked in an area that isn’t blocking any other traffic
  • You need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it is unsafe to stop – of course this would have to be an exceptional circumstance.

What is the maximum penalty for using a phone while driving?

The penalties for driving while using a mobile phone can differ depending on the situation and is usually handed out through a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) issued by police.

  • If you are using a mobile phone while driving, you can receive 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.
    • Additionally, if you have passed your test in the last two years, your licence will be revoked and you will have to retake both the theory and practical elements of the driving assessment.
  • If your view is obscured by a mobile phone, or you are deemed to not have proper control over a vehicle because of a mobile phone, you can be issued with 3 penalty points.
  • In more severe circumstances, you can also be taken to court. The maximum penalty may differ between a complete driving ban, and a maximum £1,000 fine (£2,500 if you drive a lorry or bus).

If you would like any advice over mobile phone driving laws, or you have been accused of a driving offence, get in touch with DPP Law today and speak to one of our expert driving offence solicitors.