In the United Kingdom, you can legally use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel of a vehicle only for calls to the emergency services, and only if it is unfeasible to stop or if the vehicle is safely parked.
Under all other circumstances, when the engine is running, been cut by ‘stop-start’ technology or when the vehicle is stationary, using a handheld mobile phone is illegal.
Drivers who make or take telephone calls or use a handheld mobile phone for any other interactive communication like email, social media and texting, while say, stopped at traffic lights or waiting in a queue of traffic, are breaking the law.
As of March 1, 2017, any driver caught using a mobile phone illegally are issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice, which offers a £200 fine and six penalty points. Of course, newly qualified drivers can have their licence revoked if they receive six penalty points within two years of passing their driving test.
Consequently, a single conviction for illegal use of a mobile phone could mean taking and passing their driving tests all over again.
Furthermore, anyone seeking to renew a motor trade or private insurance policy with a conviction for a CU80 driving offence – as it is known under the Road Traffic Act 1988 – is likely to face insurance premiums up to 40% higher for the next three to five years.
Prior to March 1, 2017, the penalty for using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel was three penalty points and a £100 fine, but since the new laws, illegal phone use on British roads still remains rife.
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According to research for the ‘RAC Report on Motoring’ the problem is becoming worse, not better, especially among younger drivers. In 2018, a quarter of all drivers of all ages admitted making or receiving calls illegally, but nearly half of all younger drivers, admitted to doing so.
Obviously, the significant proportion of British drivers that continue to flout the law regarding handheld mobile phones is a matter of pressing concern for police forces up and down the country. In response, many of them are turning to technological means to tackle the problem.
Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police are the first police forces to deploy mobile phone detectors which can detect mobile phone signals inside new and used cars, these trigger a warning sign to drivers at the roadside nearby.
The technology, which is still in its infancy, cannot currently differentiate between a mobile phone being used by a driver and a mobile phone being used by a passenger in the same vehicle.
Nevertheless, when used alongside traditional policing methods, in other words, highly visible police patrol cars – mobile phone detectors have the potential to provide a reliable method of educating offending drivers, as well as enforcing the law.