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Stricter mobile phone laws come into force today

25 March 2022

The law on people using their mobile phones while driving in Great Britain (GB) has become stricter today – 25 March 2022. The new law means an offence is triggered whenever a driver holds and uses a device – regardless of why they’re holding it.

Since 2003, it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar hand-held device while driving. The offence was specified as using a device for ‘interactive communication’ – mainly, phone calls, messages or accessing the internet.

The offence (under Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986) still carries a minimum penalty of a £200 fine and six penalty points. This means an offender would lose their licence after two offences and new drivers who have held their licence for less than two years would have their licence revoked after one.

Although penalties remain the same, drivers are now extremely limited on when they can pick up their phone.

The law has been updated to keep up with technology as mobile devices have become capable of performing many more tasks beyond ‘interactive communication’ – they’re used to scroll through articles, take photographs, record video, and play music, games and more.

Drivers are not only risking a fine and penalty points, but real danger to life. Department for Transport statistics show that in 2020, 17 people were killed, 114 people were seriously injured, and 385 were slightly injured in road traffic accidents in GB where the driver was using a mobile phone.

The new law has amended the 1986 Regulations and means the offence is triggered whenever a driver holds and uses a device, regardless of why they are holding it.

The meaning of “using” a phone, has been expanded to cover the following:

  • illuminating the screen
  • checking the time
  • checking notifications
  • unlocking the device
  • making, receiving, or rejecting a telephone or internet-based call
  • sending, receiving or uploading oral or written content
  • sending, receiving or uploading a photo or video
  • utilising camera, video, or sound recording
  • drafting any text
  • accessing any stored data such as documents, books, audio files, photos, videos, films, playlists, notes or messages
  • accessing an app
  • accessing the internet


The new law has created one new exemption (alongside the existing exemption which allows a driver to use a phone in emergencies), which is that drivers are permitted to hold and use a device while driving to use contactless payment as a payment terminal for goods or service.

The vehicle must be stationary, and the item being paid for must be provided at the same time or after the contactless payment is made, for example, paying for a car park or drive-through coffee.

Using a mobile phone for satellite navigation continues to be legal, as long as it is kept in a cradle, not in the driver’s hand or blocking your view.

The Government has updated both the guidance on Using a phone or a sat nav when driving and the Highway Code, to reduce misunderstandings about the new law, particularly on the difference between hand-held and hands-free use.