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Two-Thirds of Drivers Unaware of the Mobile Phone Penalty Charge

Two-Thirds of Drivers Unaware of the Mobile Phone Penalty Charge

mobile phone driving offences

Since 2003 it has been illegal in the UK to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving. In March 2017 fines for using a mobile phone behind the wheel doubled to £200, and the penalty points issued for the offence also rose to six.

Now that we have reached the two-year mark since tougher penalties were introduced for drivers who use their phones at the wheel, new research on attitudes towards the practice has been released.

The survey, conducted in February by One Poll, reveals that 66% of the UK population are unaware of the potential fine they could receive if caught using their phone whilst driving.

Top reasons why motorists use their phones at the wheel revealed.

46% of motorists admitted in the survey that they use their phones for navigation purposes whilst driving, making it the leading cause for illegal phone use as a driver. Answering calls, replying to texts and checking social media is also not uncommon, with 40% of drivers admitting to doing this in 2018. Closely following texting and taking calls, 27% of the survey respondents confessed to using their phones for listening to music, making it another leading reason for illegal phone use at the wheel.

Other interesting insights have come from the survey too, almost a quarter (22%) of the 2,000 respondents admit one reason they use their phones at the wheel is simply because they are too impatient to wait until the end of their journey. Statistically, it is men who are twice as likely to do this as women.

Who uses their phone whilst driving?

At a yearly average of 25,189, in terms of fixed penalty notices, London has highest number of offenders using their phones at the wheel. The lowest average amount is in the North East of England, at only 2,471.

We also can see from these statistics that it is younger drivers who are the most likely to use their mobiles whilst driving. Given that new drivers can lose their licence if they receive six penalty points within two years of passing their test, it is surprising that 30% of the 17 to 24 year old demographic have held their phones whilst driving, whereas this number amongst the over 55’s is significantly lower, at only 4%.

The reason for these numbers could be linked to the thinking behind possible outcomes of using a phone at the wheel. The most common factor scaring 70% of drivers off using their phone whilst driving is the potential to cause an accident. In 2017, there were 33 fatal crashes directly resulting from drivers using their phones. 61% of drivers fear losing their licence, and a further 36% don’t use their phone to avoid the public embarrassment of being ‘named and shamed’.

Despite a quarter of motorists thinking they now use their phones more whilst driving than ever before, the increased penalties have had a positive effect. Supporting government data shows that in 2017 the total of fixed penalty notices that were issued dropped by 34%, this trend was consistent throughout all areas of the UK, demonstrating that driving is becoming safer nationwide.

Be clear on the law

  • IT IS NOT ILLEGAL to hold a phone (or other device) whilst driving a car or riding a motorcycle – IT IS ILLEGAL to use a phone (or other device) whilst driving a car or riding a motorcycle
  • A HANDS-FREE DEVICE MUST NOT BLOCK YOUR VIEW of the road or traffic ahead

You also may NOT use a mobile phone at any point if you are supervising a learner driver.

Using a hands-free accessory also does NOT exempt you from receiving penalties, if a police officer feels you are not fully in control of the car.


The RAC, have started the campaign Be Phone Smart to help bring the end to mobile phone use during driving. They answer FAQ’s and provide tips on being phone smart in the car, you can also sign their pledge to help make roads safer.

Advice from IBB Solicitors

Any touching of the phone (or other device) can be considered ‘using’, therefore in order to reduce the risk of prosecution please consider the following:

  • Keep your mobile in a craddle or glove box
  • Do not touch your phone, sat nav or other device even if you stop at lights. Set up your hands-free, sat nav or playlists before you begin your journey.
  • If you call someone, and they are driving, end the call.
  • If you are a passenger, and the driver is using a phone or other device, ask them to stop.
  • You can use a mobile phone via a hands-free device or blue tooth technology. However if you are involved in a collision, this can be used against you.

Contact our road traffic solicitors for expert advice

If you or a family member has been charged with a road traffic offence, we can help. Call our road and driving offences solicitors today on 0330 999 4999 for immediate help. Alternatively, email us at roadtraffic@ibblaw.co.uk or complete our online form.