Using a mobile phone while driving
About Using a Mobile Phone Whilst Driving Offences
It is an offence to use a mobile phone while driving. You also commit an offence if you cause or permit someone to drive a motor vehicle on a road whilst using a hand-held mobile telephone or specified device.
If you are supervising a provisional licence-holder you commit an offence if you use a phone while driving.
The police may charge drivers with not being in a position to be in proper control of a vehicle. We can help with this offence too.
Using a Mobile Phone While Driving Summary
Driving a motor vehicle on a road whilst using a hand-held mobile telephone or a hand-held device. The phone or device will be handheld if it is actually held at some point during the course of using it.
£2,500 in passenger or goods carrying vehicles. £1,000 in other vehicles.
Court Magistrates only (unless an appeal)
The Law on Using Mobile Phones While Driving
The law is contained in Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986. The Road Safety Act 2006, which came into force on 27 February 2007, created a specific offence in relation to the use of mobile phones and handheld devices.
At that time, mobile phones could perform only a handful of the functions now possible. As such, the legislation was drafted to include the following interactive communication functions:
- sending or receiving oral or written messages;
- sending or receiving faxes;
- sending or receiving still or moving images; and
- providing access to the Internet.
The court must be sure that one of the above applies to convict a person of an offence committed before 25 March 2022.
Offences Before 25 March 2022
For an offence to be committed, a mobile device must be used to perform an interactive communication function by transmitting and/or receiving data, to constitute an offence. For example, making or receiving a call, sending or reading a text message or accessing the internet.
The law was unclear about what constitutes interactive communication but was clarified in the case of DPP v Barreto 2019. This case made clear that ‘interactive communication’ required the phone or hand-held device to be used to communicate data externally. This is different from interacting with the internal workings of the phone, for example by selecting music or taking a photograph.
Offences On or After 25 March 2022
The law changed on 25/03/22 which amended the definition of ‘using’ a mobile phone.
For offences committed on or after this date, you can be convicted if you are:
- illuminating the screen,
- checking the time,
- checking notifications,
- unlocking the device,
- making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet based call,
- sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content,
- sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video,
- using the camera, video, or making a sound recording,
- drafting any text,
- accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages,
- accessing an application or accessing the internet.
It will not include making contactless payments provided your vehicle is stationary.
Other Points to Note
It is for the prosecution to prove that you were ‘using’ the mobile phone or handheld device.
Many driving offences can be committed on a road or public place. However, this offence can only be committed on a road.
Where use cannot be proven, the police may prosecute a driver for a different offence. This will depend on the circumstances, but alternative offences include driving whilst not being in proper control of the vehicle, careless driving and dangerous driving.
For more information, please see our FAQs on using a mobile phone while driving, below.
If you would like to know more please contact us today.
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Using a Mobile Whilst Driving Offence FAQs
Can I go on a driver awareness course for using a mobile phone?
Will I be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for using a mobile phone while driving?
However, the police will often send one together with a s.172 request for driver details. Failure to give those details could mean you are guilty of failing to provide driver details, which is a different offence with similar penalties.