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Holding a Phone or Sat Nav when Driving

Since the 25th of March 2022, using handheld mobile phones or any other device to send or receive data became illegal for motorists in the United Kingdom.

This guide explains the rules for drivers and motorbike riders about using a phone or a sat nav, with extra details about the penalties and fines if you get caught.

The Mobile Phone Driving Laws in the UK

If you are driving or riding a vehicle, holding a cell phone or satellite-based navigation device is illegal. It can result in (all):

Not having a full view of the road and traffic in front of you can result in an extra three (3) penalty points.

Important: The same rules for using mobile phones or other devices also apply to taking photographs or videos, using streaming services, playing games, and scrolling through music playlists.

Other than for an emergency (see below), a mobile phone, sat nav, or other electronic device must not be in your hand for any reason while you are behind the steering wheel - even if the gadget is offline.

As a result, the law in the UK states you must not be making phone calls, texting, taking photographs, videoing, or browsing the web, even if you are (all apply):

When You Can Use a Cell Phone while Driving

There are several legal exceptions allowing you to use a device held in your hand even when behind the steering wheel. They include situations where you:

Rules for Using Hands-Free Devices

Using a device that has hands-free access is not illegal - per se. But, you must not have it in your hands at any time while you use it.

So, what exactly does 'hands-free access' mean? As long as the device does not block the view ahead (e.g. the road and traffic) you can use:

Exercising Proper Control of the Vehicle

Rule 149 in the Official Highway Code states "You 'MUST' exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times" and "You 'MUST NOT' use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, capable of interactive communication (e.g. a tablet) for any purpose when driving or when supervising a learner driver."

Also, you can avoid being stopped by the police while driving by staying in total control. They stop vehicles when they see the driver is distracted and it could result in a prosecution.

Penalties for Using Mobile Phone when Driving

If you get caught holding and using a phone, satellite navigation, a tablet, or a similar device that is capable of sending and receiving data while driving or riding a motorcycle - the penalty can be six (6) points and a fine of £200.

After catching you using a device while driving your car, the police may decide the incident was dangerous and take you to court. If so, it could result in you:

FAQ about Mobile Phone Driving Law

Can Passengers Use a Mobile Phone in a Car?

The simple answer is yes... any passenger can use a phone inside a vehicle. But, they must not distract the driver, encourage them to look away from the road, or cause them to lose concentration, when doing so.

Can I Touch the Phone while I'm Driving if it is in a Holder?

The current UK law about mobile phone use is clear. It forbids the driver or motorbike rider from holding it while driving.

What if you tap the screen when it's fixed on a mount? In this case, the police may charge you for careless driving or driving without due care and attention.

Note: You could get a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or an offer to take part in a 'driver education course' if you get caught driving without due care and attention.

Can I Answer My Phone when I am Driving?

You must not use your hands to answer a call or to make one. But, you can use the phone's speaker for a response. To stay legal, you must start a call before you begin driving or use the connectivity/voice control to initiate it.

Is it Illegal to Have a Phone Holder on the Windscreen?

In fact, the rules of the Highway Code state that "windscreens and windows 'MUST' be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision". Fixing a phone or sat nav holder to the front glass may be a technical breach of the code.

Note: A court case is likely to see a phone holder stuck onto a windscreen as an obstruction to the driver's vision.

Can Cameras Catch You on the Phone?

In fact, a new motorway camera has already caught thousands of motorists being distracted by using their mobile while behind the wheel.

Data from the trial suggests that around one in two hundred drivers are using a phone even when driving at high speeds on a motorway.

Note: Another section contains information about what happens if you get caught by a speed camera and how to respond to a Section 172 notice.

How Can Police Prove You Were on the Phone While Driving?

In a court of law, the prosecution would need to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that the defendant was using a phone and driving at the same time.

One way that a police officer might respond as part of their evidence is to say that they saw the defendant driving and holding a mobile phone close by their ear.

Can I Use a Mobile when Driving on Private Property?

The courts can only enforce driving offences that have been carried out on public roads. In legislation, The Road Traffic Regulations Act defines a road as "any length of highway or other road to which the public has access."

Note: Some of the benefits and attractions of off roading in the United Kingdom are the exclusions from a number of 'standardised' road rules.

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