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 Is it illegal to use a phone while driving?

It is illegal to hold a phone, sat nav, tablet or other device that can send or receive data while driving, even when stationary in traffic. Being ‘stationary in traffic’ includes when a driver is:

  • stopping at traffic lights

  • stationary in a traffic jam

  • queuing in traffic

  • in a vehicle that automatically turns off the engine when it stops moving

The ban applies whether or not the device is offline or in flight mode and includes: 

  • texting while driving

  • using phones to take photos or videos

  • scrolling through playlists

  • playing games

  • browsing the web

  • holding a phone or GPS to look at directions

Note that the ban on using hand-held devices also applies to a driver who is supervising a learner driver.

What are the penalties?

Any driver caught using a handheld device while driving faces 6 points on their licence and a fine of £200.

Drivers who passed their driving test in the last 2 years will also lose their licence.

Drivers that don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle, can get 3 penalty points.

Drivers can also be taken to court if they use their hand-held devices while driving. The court can decide whether to ban them from driving and/or whether to impose a fine of up to £1,000. Note that bus or truck drivers can get fined up to £2,500.

 For more information about disqualification from driving, see the government’s guidance.

Are there any exemptions?

Drivers can use hand-held devices while driving if they need to call emergency services (ie 999 or 112) and it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

To keep up with technological developments, drivers can make contactless payments using their devices while stationary. This exemption will only apply where payment is being made with a card reader (eg at a toll booth or drive-through). In other words, this exception will not allow drivers to make general ​​online payments while driving.

Drivers can use hands-free devices (like sat navs) while driving, provided they are secured (eg in a cradle) and not blocking their view of the road and traffic ahead. Drivers are also able to use their phones using hands-free access (eg via voice command or a bluetooth headset). Where a mobile phone is secured in place (eg using a dashboard holder/mat or a windscreen mount), it must also not block the driver’s view of the road and traffic ahead. Even where a hand-free device is used, drivers must always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if they are found to not be in proper control of their vehicle.

Drivers can also use hand-held devices if they are using them to park their vehicles remotely or when safely parked.


Drivers should familiarise themselves with The Highway Code. For more information on the different types of offences that can be committed while driving, read Road traffic offences. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.

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