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28 Oct 2020
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

Mobile phones and driving: legal loophole closes to ban all phone use


person using a mobile phone

It’s illegal to use your phone while driving, but over two in five motorists admit they’ve used their phone behind the wheel. 

Have you ever used your phone behind the wheel? When asked, more than two in five (42%)* drivers said they have. 

But why are people using their phones while driving?

One in 10 (10%) people are confused about the laws surrounding mobile phone use behind the wheel. So, the definition of ‘using’ could be causing confusion for motorists. 

Or it could be the simple fact that phones are distracting. 

Age may have a bearing too. Our research tells us that younger drivers are more inclined to check their phones while driving. 

Have you ever seen someone use their phone while driving? Let us know in the comments below.


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25 to 34-year-olds revealed to be the worst culprits for mobile phone use behind the wheel 

Drivers under 35 are the worst offenders for mobile phone use behind the wheel. 

Over half (52%) of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted to this. But by far the worst are 25 to 34-year-olds, with almost two thirds (59%) using their phone while driving. 

But over forties aren’t blameless. 

More than two in five (42%) 45 to 54-year-olds admitted using their phones. 

Out of these, almost one in two (45%) told us they’d used their phone behind the wheel to text. 

More than a fifth (28%) of over 55s admitted to using a phone behind the wheel – nearly four in five (77%) of which used the phone to make a call. 


Why are people using their mobile phones behind the wheel? 


Top reasons for using a mobile phone while driving % of drivers
 Taking or making a phone call   67% 
 Sending or reading a text   45% 
 Changing map settings   34% 
 Changing music   31% 
 Taking a photo   16% 
 Taking a video call   13% 
 Social media   11% 
 Playing a game   9% 


With notifications constantly lighting up your phone, some motorists may find it tempting to check their mobile while stuck in traffic. Or risk taking a call. 

In fact, more than one in 10 (11%) drivers have generally been distracted by their mobile phone while driving. 

These distractions vary from social media to messaging services. Over one in five motorists have read a notification or have used Whatsapp. 

It doesn’t pay to risk checking your phone when you’re driving either. Over one in 20 (6%) of drivers have had a near miss because of using their phone while driving. 


What does the law say about mobile phone use and driving? 

There are confusions around the law too. 

One in eight (12%) believe it’s legal to: 

  • Use your phone to text or call

  • Change your music

  • Change your map settings

  • Use your phone at a red light

  • Use your phone while your car is running but stopped 

In 2019, a legal loophole meant that you were able to use your phone to film or take photos – at this point the law only ruled out calling. 

Now the government has closed that loophole and any use of mobiles phones behind the wheel is prohibited. 

If you’re caught using your phone behind the wheel you can get a £200 fine and 6 points on your licence. 

If you’ve learned to drive in the last two years and you’re caught, then you could lose your licence altogether. 

The only time you’re permitted to use your mobile phone behind the wheel is if you’re making an emergency call. Or if you’re safely parked and the car isn’t running. 

READ MORE: Mobile phones, driving and the law - FAQs


Drivers call for stricter punishments 

For law-abiding road users, drivers using their phones behind the wheel are a source of frustration. 

One in six (17%) drivers would report someone for using their phone behind the wheel, more than one in eight (13%) would confront someone if they saw them using their mobile phones. 

More than two in five (44%) motorists believe that there should be stricter punishments for this offence. 

Almost a third (30%) believe that motorists should be encouraged to report mobile phone use while driving to the police. 

If you notice someone using their phone behind the wheel, call 101. This is the non-emergency number for the police. 

When you call you should try to give as much detail as you can about the motorist. Focus on the car’s make and registration, try to include a description of the driver too. 

Many motorists are calling for a more tech-focussed approach to apprehending criminals. 

Almost two in five (36%) motorists believe there should be camera monitoring systems to catch people using their phones. 

Almost a third (30%) are calling for in-car systems to warn drivers if they sense they’re using their phones. 


*Figures taken from omnibus research carried out by OnePoll on behalf of This was a nationally-representative poll of 2,000 UK adults. The research was conducted between 20/10/2020 – 22/10/2020. 


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