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Understanding mobile phone laws when driving in the UK

Most countries in the world now have laws on using a mobile phone while driving. In many, it’s illegal, with strict penalties attached. So what’s the score in the UK? 

Keep reading to find out all the mobile phone rules and regulations you need to know as you begin driving on UK roads. 

Is it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in the UK?

Yes, it’s illegal to use a handheld mobile phone for any reason while driving in the UK. That means no adjusting your sat nav route, picking up calls and messages, or changing your music. 

This law applies when you’re stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic, or supervising a learner driver. The only exceptions are if you’re safely parked with the engine off, or calling emergency services in a genuine emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.

Can I use a hands-free device while driving?

You’re allowed to use hands-free devices while driving, such as a Bluetooth headset, voice command, a dashboard holder, or a built-in sat nav. However, even with these devices, you must remain in full control of your vehicle. If the police believe you’re distracted while driving, you can still be stopped and penalised.

What are the UK penalties for using a mobile phone while driving?

If you’re caught by the police using a handheld phone while driving in the UK, you could receive up to 6 penalty points on your driving licence and a £200 fine. And if you’ve passed your UK driving test within the last two years? You could also lose your licence. 

For more serious cases, where phone use results in dangerous driving, you could face a court appearance, a driving ban, and a fine of up to £1,000 (or £2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or bus).

Points on your licence could also make your UK car insurance more expensive.

Can I use my phone if my car is stationary?

You can only use your phone if you are safely parked. Waiting at traffic lights or being stuck in traffic doesn’t count as being parked. The best option is to always park in a safe, legal spot before using your phone.

Can I use my phone as a sat nav?

Yes, but only as a hands-free device. That means it should be mounted on your dashboard or windscreen in a holder. Only set your route, or adjust it, while you’re safely parked – using it while driving is illegal. It also shouldn’t block your view of the road. 

Can I use my phone for contactless payment?

If you’re buying something from your car, like food at a drive-through restaurant, you’re allowed to use your phone to pay. However the car must be stopped and you should receive what you paid for immediately. 

Are there special rules for new drivers in the UK?

Yes, there are stricter rules for those who have recently passed their UK driving test. New drivers who get 6 or more penalty points within two years of passing their test will have their licence revoked. So you’d only need to get caught once to lose a new UK licence. Then you would need to reapply for a provisional licence and pass both the theory and practical tests all over again.

What should I do if I need to make an emergency call while driving?

If you need to call 999 (the UK’s emergency services), you’re allowed to use your phone while driving. But only if it’s not safe or practical to stop. Make sure to keep this as a last resort and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.

How can I stay safe and avoid penalties?

Here are some tips to help you stay on the right side of the law:

  • Use a hands-free device for calls.
  • Set your sat nav before starting your journey.
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode to avoid distractions.
  • Plan breaks on long journeys to check your phone.

 Safe travels!

Want to find out more about road rules in the UK? Check out our guide to UK road signs.