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Mobile phones and driving

Mobile phones in cars can be beneficial and can provide security and assistance in an emergency. However, using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal. To drive safely you must concentrate on the road and a split-second lapse in concentration if using a mobile phone could result in a collision.

Credit: Department for Transport / Think! 

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Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free:

  • are much less aware of what's happening on the road around them
  • fail to see road signs
  • fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
  • are more likely to tailgate the vehicle in front
  • react more slowly and take longer to brake
  • are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
  • feel more stressed and frustrated

The law

Drivers using a mobile phone are 4 times more likely to be involved in a collision. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving, even if you have stopped at traffic lights or are in a queue of traffic and the penalties could leave you out of pocket - a £200 fine and 6 penalty points on your licence. If the matter goes to court, car drivers risk a maximum fine of £1,000 while drivers of vans, lorries, buses and coaches face a maximum fine of £2,500.

If you are involved in a collision and were found to be making a call at the time, you could be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving and the penalties are much more severe including heavy fines, disqualification and in serious cases, imprisonment.

These regulations apply to drivers of all motor vehicles on the road including cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles, buses, coaches and taxis. There is an exemption for calls to 999 in genuine emergencies where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

Be safe not sorry

Even the most careful driver will be distracted by a phone call or message as concentration and observation skills will be affected.

  • keep your mobile phone switched off when driving and let your voicemail pick up any missed calls
  • only use a mobile phone once you have stopped in a safe place.
  • never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway, except in an emergency
  • using a hands-free device is not illegal but will reduce your level of concentration while driving, putting yourself and other road users at risk - if you must use one, say you are driving and end the conversation quickly
  • a mobile phone can be used in a genuine emergency
  • on a motorway it is best to use a roadside emergency telephone as the emergency services will be able to locate you more easily

Other distractions

Mobile phones are not the only distractions for a driver. To drive safely avoid:

  • trying to read a map
  • inserting a CD or tuning the radio
  • playing loud music that may make you unable to hear other sounds
  • arguing with your passengers
  • eating or drinking