Mobile Phones

On 1st December 2003, UK legislation was passed which prohibited motorists from using a hand-held mobile phone or similar technological device whilst driving. Titled as “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations”, this legislation also prohibited passengers from ‘causing’ or ‘permitting’ a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar technological device whilst driving. The legislation also prohibited passengers from using a hand-held mobile phone whilst they are supposed to be supervising a driver who only has a provisional licence.

Any drivers or supervisory passengers who are found to have broken the rules outlined in this legislation will be issued with a fixed penalty of £60 and 3 penalty points will be added to the offender’s licence. Offenders may also face a fine of up to £1,000 if their case goes to court. This fine increases to £2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles or passenger-carrying vehicles with 9 or more passenger seats.

According to the definition given in the legislation, a hand-held mobile phone or similar device applies to any;

device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data…a mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function”.

This “interactive communication” covers; sending or receiving calls or text messages, documents, images or video content, as well as accessing the Internet. The only exceptions to this legislation is the use of the two-way “press to talk” radios used by taxi drivers and the emergency services, or the use of a hand-held phone to call 999 in the event of an emergency.

Mobile Phone Statistics

    • Despite the introduction of this legislation, a 2009 survey revealed that 2.9% of car drivers and 5% of van and lorry drivers continued to use either a hand-held or a hands-free mobile phone.
    • In Scotland, approximately people were killed in the last 3 years as the direct result of drivers using mobile phones. Strathclyde Police, Scotland’s largest Police Force, report that they have dealt with 81 crashes, out of which 2 were serious incidents, in which mobile phone use was a contributing factor to the crash.
    • In Northern Constabulary, approximately 59 crashes were caused by ‘distractions in the vehicle’. Amongst these 59 crashes included 5 fatal incidents which caused the deaths of 8 people and 12 cases of serious injury
    • A recent study carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) highlighted the extent to which mobile phone use can be more distracting and dangerous for drivers than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During the study, IAM used a driving simulator to measure participant driving response times. Participants who sent and received Facebook messages on their phone whilst driving had 38% slower reaction times than the other participant, as well as missing key events in the simulator. In comparison, participants who were over the legal limit for alcohol demonstrated slowed reaction times which ranged between 6% and 15%.
    • In 2009, the Scottish Police Force issued over 52,000 fixed penalties to motorists who were apprehended for using mobile phones whilst driving.
    • According to the RAC, approximately 50% of young drivers have admitted to using a smart-phone to listen to music, read emails and check maps whilst driving. The RAC 2011 report on motoring revealed that 48% of drivers aged 18-24 had admitted to smart-phone distractions, with 24% of young drivers admitting to using an iPod to listen to music, 23% admitting to reading emails, 22% admitting to checking Google maps whilst driving and 21% admitting to texting behind the wheel.
    • 12% of motorists admit that they receive or make non-hands-free calls while driving. Moreover, a quarter of drivers consider mobile phone usage to be a more dangerous issue than drink driving.
  • 82% of drivers agree that using a phone behind the wheel is dangerous.However, 14% still state that they feel “confident and safe” when simultaneously driving and using their mobile phone.
  • 53% of drivers would like to see an increase in the number of points awarded to a driver’s licence for using a mobile phone whilst driving.
  • 69% of drivers strongly believe that the government need to introduce a “three strikes” rule with regards to mobile phone use whilst driving. The rule would result in drivers losing their licence for a year if they were apprehended using their mobile phones on three occasions.
  • THINK! research shows that you are 4 times more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision if you use a mobile phone whilst driving.


Mobile phone use is an extremely dangerous and distracting task to perform whilst driving. Therefore, to reduce your risk of being involved in a road traffic incident, listed below are a series of recommended driving practices:

  • Do not make or receive phone calls whilst driving.
  • Do not call other people when they are driving. If you know that they are currently driving, arrange to call them back at a more convenient time.
  • Do not use your mobile phone when you are stationary (i.e. at traffic lights or in congestion). Although you may not be actively driving, your response times will still be impeded and you need to remain alert whilst driving at all times. What’s more, these conditions are still specified as ‘driving on the road’ and therefore it is illegal to use your phone in these circumstances.
  • Before using your mobile phone, make sure that you have parked safely and that you are not obstructing the path of other motorists.
  • Place your phone on silent or a reduced volume whilst driving. By doing so, you are less likely to be distracted by text alerts or email notifications.