Using a mobile phone while driving is a sure-fire way to put lives at risk and get yourself a fine, but did you know that you can also get a £200 fine and points on your licence when you’re not even driving? Here’s how, along with all you need to know about mobile phone use in cars.
How can I land a £200 fine as a passenger?
If you’re in the passenger seat of a car and the driver is on L-plates under instruction, then you are ultimately in charge of the vehicle. Using your mobile phone in such circumstances carries the same penalty as if you were driving, and traffic police have been briefed to keep a very close eye out for cars on L-plates with passengers using hand-held phones.
The same principle applies to drink-driving, so don’t bank on your 17-year old son or daughter giving you a lift back from a boozy night out while on L-plates, as you could still end up with a ban…
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What are the laws around mobile phone use in cars?
Put simply, you mustn’t use a hand-held phone at the wheel, nor must your hand come into contact with your mobile phone at any time whilst you are driving. This includes pressing the ‘accept call’ and ‘speaker’ buttons in order to talk to someone on loudspeaker, even if the phone is in a secure holster.
Similarly, shuffling through your music library, inputting destinations into phone-based navigation apps, using any hand-held app or checking your emails or SMS messages are all classed as offences which can carry a six-point penalty and a £200 fine. The rules apply even if the car is stationary at traffic lights or in heavy traffic, and even when it is pulled over at the side of the road, unless it is parked legally, safely and with the engine switched off.
Is there ever a time I can use my phone at the wheel?
Yes, but in one situation alone – if you need to make an emergency call to 999 or 112 and it isn’t practical or safe to stop (for example, if you witness a motorway collision) then you can call the emergency services using your phone. Most phones even have a one-button function that allows this, even if the home screen is locked, to minimise the risk of distraction.
And as a passenger?
Unless you’re supervising a learner, then as a passenger you can use your hand-held phone as much as you like – but bear in mind that doing anything to distract the driver could still make you partially liable in the event of an accident.