Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

Fixed penalty notices for using a phone whilst driving

Using a phone whilst driving has been illegal since 2003.

13 years later, in 2017, tougher fixed penalties were introduced for motorists using their phone behind the wheel – if you’re caught, you will receive six points and a £200 fine on the spot. New drivers should take this in to consideration, as you will lose your licence if you get six penalty points within two years of taking your test. If your use of a phone is deemed particularly dangerous by the police, you could be banned from driving or receive a fine of up to £1,000.

Statistics from the police across the UK reveal that year-on-year, there have been less offences resulting in a fixed penalty from the driver using a mobile phone.

What Is meant by using a phone whilst driving?

Any use of a handheld mobile phone whilst driving, including:

  • Making a call
  • Sending a text
  • Checking social media
  • Inputting address information into maps
  • Using your phone at a traffic light/whilst stuck in traffic
  • Using your phone when supervising a learner driver
  • Skipping music
When can you use a phone in the car?

Only if the vehicle is safely parked up, or if you need to call 999 in an emergency (but only if it’s not safe to stop).

You can use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth and a dashboard holder, but even these can cause a distraction, so the safest way to use your phone in the car is to not use it at all.

What happens if I get stopped by the police whilst driving?

If the police ask you to stop, you should pull over when it is safe to do so. They can ask to see your driving licence, insurance certificate and MOT certificate. If you don’t have those documents with you, you need to take them to a police station within a week. You can be given an on-the-spot penalty notice for offences such as mobile phone usage or not wearing a seatbelt.

Can I appeal a fixed penalty notice for using my phone?

There is no appeal process for a fixed penalty notice. If you accept guilt and pay the fine/collect the points, you will avoid a court summons. However, if you decide to challenge it, you will receive a court summons. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process, and you should seek advice from a solicitor if you do decide to challenge the penalty. You have 28 days to decide whether to accept a fixed penalty notice, but you should take care, as doing nothing can sometimes be perceived as acceptance by the authorities. If you’d like to see evidence of the offence before you accept, you can ask the police force who issued the penalty notice, but there is no legal obligation for them to give it to you.

Essentially, if you accept the fixed penalty notice and plead guilty, there is little need for a legal representative to intervene. If you would like to dispute it, that is when you should seek legal representation.

The best way to avoid a fixed penalty notice for using your phone in the car is to not use it at all. At the start of the journey, put it in your glove box. If you need it for navigation, set it up on your dashboard/windscreen holder before you set off.

Author: Leila Jones

Swinton Car Insurance

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances, and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 7th March 2019
(Last updated 7th May 2021)