Has change in law on driving with mobile phones had an impact?

Driver texting on mobile phone whilst driving

Around 39,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were handed out to drivers between March and December 2017 compared with 74,000 during the same period in 2016, according to police data.

Since 1st March 2017, drivers caught using a handheld phone behind the wheel face double the penalty points and fine. Now, drivers will receive six penalty points and a £200 fine, whereas previously this would have been only three points on their license and a £100 fine.

For new drivers, i.e. those within two years of passing their test, they will lose their license altogether and need to resit their test. According to recent reports, this has resulted in 600 new drivers losing their license for using a phone whilst driving.

The reason for harsher punishments? To deter motorists from using their phone behind the wheel - and recent police data is showing that it is working.

However, some say the drop is partly due to less police enforcing the law, rather than less drivers adhering to the law.

Other research highlight that some drivers are continuing to use their phone and answering calls whilst they are driving. Many admitted to doing this only when stuck in traffic or moving slowly.

However, the law states that even holding a mobile phone or sat nav at any point while driving is an offence, including while the car is stationary at traffic lights or sitting in queuing traffic.

Common myths about using your mobile phone behind the wheel:

1. It’s okay to use your phone when the car isn’t moving.

You are not allowed to hold your phone even if you’re in traffic or not moving.

2. It’s fine if I’m only putting in the route in my phone.

This is illegal if you have to handle your phone whilst driving,

3. Using hands free or voice commands is allowed.

This is correct, as long as you aren’t distracted from focusing on the road, and don’t need to touch your phone at all

4. It’s alright to hold a sat nav if I’m sitting in queuing traffic. 

No, this is illegal. You must have hands-free access in the form of a Bluetooth headset, voice command, an inbuilt sat nav or a dashboard holder, mat or windscreen mount. You need to make sure this doesn’t obscure you’re view as 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.

The law is in place to protect everyone on the road as even a moment of distraction behind the wheel can have life changing consequences. Find more information about the law around mobile phones and driving at Using your mobile when driving? Watch out, six penalty points coming your way.