Any hand-held mobile phone use at the wheel to be made illegal

Published 19 November 2021

Drivers caught using their mobile phone to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games will face a £200 fine and six points on their licence from next year. 

The Government is strengthening existing laws which already mean it is illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving. 

The move follows a public consultation that found 81% of respondents supported the tougher proposals.

Drivers will still be able to use a device ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle.

Mobile Phone

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held.

"By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users."

There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary "to ensure the law keeps pace with technology", the Department for Transport said.

This exemption will cover, for example, places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.

Police Car 2 

The Government will revise The Highway Code to explain the new measures and will make it clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams welcomed the strengthening of the law but warned that police enforcement will be essential.  

He said: “While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”

1How can I legally use my mobile phone while driving?

It is legal to make and receive calls using a hands-free system such as bluetooth. 

However, be aware that you must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted.

The law allows you to use a handheld mobile phone while driving if you need to make an emergency call to 999 or 112 and it is unsafe to pull over and stop to make the call.

2What are the penalties for using a handheld mobile phone while driving?

If you are caught using a hand-held phone while driving you can get six penalty points and a £200 fine.

New drivers (those who passed their driving test within two years of the offence) will also lose their licence. 

You can get three penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.

You may also be taken to court and banned from driving. 

3What are the rules on sat-nav use while driving?

You must not use a handheld sat-nav while driving and if you use a windscreen mount you must ensure it doesn't block your view of the road and traffic ahead. 

Before you set off you should put your destination in the sat-nav or pull over to programme the sat-nav.

The police can issue you with a penalty or prosecute you in the even of an accident if they think you were distracted or not in control of your vehicle. 


groaver    on 19 November 2021

How is some of this any different to scrolling through menus on those tablets installed on/in the dashboard?

Surely that makes many of their functions illegal?

Brit_in_Germany    on 20 November 2021

Since when has a car display been hand held?

groaver    on 20 November 2021


IrishNeil    6 days ago

How is some of this any different to scrolling through menus on those tablets installed on/in the dashboard? Surely that makes many of their functions illegal?

My same thoughts - perhaps the distinction is when we don't have to use our mobile phones but we have no choice when using the in-car menu?

Personally, when I'm driving the mobile phone get's switched off and placed in glovebox. It gets switched on again when I am ambulatory on my own steam.

I'm old fashioned like that, from an era when phones were only used after 6pm on the cheap rate while sitting in the hallway of our home on a specifically designed chair!

Me, Luddite!

Edited by IrishNeil on 22/11/2021 at 08:44

Engineer Andy    6 days ago

Indeed - as so many new cars now (stupidly) come with touchscreen controls for things you use a lot and where 'changing a setting' - like ventilation, temperature or volume means you have to specifically take your eyes off the road for a decent period whilst undertaking the change - means that this is just as dangerous as using a mobile.

I wonder what the rules are for making calls whilst stopped in a car - will they differentiate between stopped, engine fully off (i.e. not stopped at the lights with the stop-start system operating), engine idling but actually parked at the roadside/elsewhere and not in gear, the same but waiting to drive away in traffic, etc?

I have my doubts that they have done so. To be on the safe side, I always switch my phone to divert to voicemail when driving.

hissingsid    5 days ago

I reluctantly acquired a basic mobile phone after I was the victim of a serious accident, when a kind motorist lent me theirs to call the Police and the AA. It is switched off at all times unless I wish to make a call.
I believe that using any hand held device while driving is as dangerous and selfish as drink driving and should attract the same penalties.
I agree with Andy that the increasing over reliance on touchscreen menus is equally as dangerous, yet the Construction and Use Regulations permit them. After a barrage of criticism by Citroen owners in particular, their new C4 has the heating manually controlled by knobs, just as it should be. They are learning.

Johnfrog    3 days ago

I think it’s high time the TRRL investigated the use of touch screens. They are becoming increasingly dangerous as more and more functions are moved from switches to the screen. The attraction for the manufacturer is they are cheaper than fitting dedicated switches. I consider them highly dangerous as they require you take your eyes off the road for a long time compared with a switch which you may locate by memory or just a quick glance.

hissingsid    2 days ago

Totally agree. Not only dangerous but more likely to malfunction than conventional switchgear, not that the manufacturers care what happens to their products as they get older.

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