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(Pocket-lint) - It's long been the case that you cannot hold and use a mobile phone whilst driving in the UK, for the safety of yourself, other road users and pedestrians.

However, the law being the complex beast that it is, there was a loophole that saw some cases quashed - back in 2019 a driver appealed a case, after recording a crash using his mobile device, and won on grounds he wasn't explicitly using it for communication.

That loophole has now been closed, with 25 March 2022 finally seeing the law changed and made clearer.

What the law says

For clarity, the updated UK government website states: "It's illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send or receive data, while driving or riding a motorcycle. This means you must not use a device in your hand for any reason, whether online or offline.

"The law still applies to you if you're: stopped at traffic lights; queuing in traffic; supervising a learner driver; driving a car that turns off the engine when you stop moving; holding and using a device that's offline or in flight mode."

The message is clear: you cannot use your mobile phone or device whilst driving. The penalty is up to 6 points and a £200 fine if breaking these rules. If you're a new driver (i.e. passed within two years) you may lose your licence.

What about hands-free?

However, you can use a device hands-free, to accept a call for example, but you cannot at any time hold said device - not even to accept a call.

If, however, your device is mounted - say from a windscreen mount or dashboard holder or mat - then you are able to sensibly negotiate with the interface, in a similar fashion to how you would with an integrated in-car system (such as when using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay).

Do note, however, that a mounted device must "not block your view of the road and traffic ahead," otherwise that's a separate offence - even if you're not using the device that could lead to 3 penalty points.

Are there exceptions?

The law applies if you're in control of a vehicle, thus if you're safely parked then you are permitted to handle your mobile device. Using an app to remote park a vehicle is also fine.

A specific exception has been granted for using mobile payments, such as when at a drive-through: but the law stipulates that the vehicle "is not moving".

Should you "need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it's unsafe or impractical to stop," this is also permitted.

In summary

It goes without saying really: don't use your mobile device while you're driving, it's against the law in the UK for the purpose of increasing safety for all. 

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Writing by Mike Lowe.
  • Source: Using a phone, sat nav or other device when driving - gov.uk
Sections Cars