Most people are aware that the use of a mobile phone is, in some cases, regarded as unsafe while driving and that there are laws that can cause you to be penalised if you are caught doing this. There is, however, a lot of confusion about what exactly is and is not allowed. The laws on things like texting and driving vary in different countries, and this has led to some misinformation about where the law in the UK actually stands at present.
Never Hold the Phone in Your Hand While Driving
One of the simplest ways to think about UK mobile phone and driving law is that you should never be holding the phone in your hand while you are driving. If you have to pick up your phone, even just to press a button to answer or reject a call, you are technically ‘using a handheld device’, which is illegal when you are on the road. You shouldn’t hold the phone to read or send a text, to speak to someone, or to use any of the phone’s other features (including its GPS if it has that). You can, however, make minimal use of the buttons or touchscreen on your phone, such as to accept a call which you will then take using hands free technology, if it is in a cradle. Excessive use, even in a cradle, such as typing messages, is still unsafe. The only exception to this rule is if you have to make a call to emergency services in a genuine emergency.
You can get an on the spot fine and three points on your license if you are caught using a handheld device while driving, and if it goes to court the fines can be very significant. If use of a device causes you to drive badly, you may also be charged with dangerous driving, which carries serious penalties. You could even lose your license, so it really isn’t worth it.
What About My GPS Device?
The devices covered by the mobile phone laws refer to devices which can send and receive information. If you have a standalone GPS device (rather than a GPS app you are using on a phone or tablet), it may not be covered by this law and that means you could technically hold it in your hand while driving without breaking the law. However, it is safer all round to have your GPS device mounted and not to have to hold it at any point while you are moving. It is also safest to do things like typing in addresses when you are parked, unless your GPS has good voice control features.
Using electronic devices while driving isn’t just about staying within the technicalities of the law, it is also about being safe. Even if something is legal, like talking hands free, it can still distract you and stop you driving safely. If you feel that this is the case for you, don’t use your phone at all while the car is moving.