It has been illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving, or while stopped with the engine on, since December 2003.
But with tougher penalties being enforced from this month, more drivers will undoubtedly be caught out breaking the law when they don’t even realise they’re doing it.
Under the new laws, people seen holding their mobile phone while driving will be handed six penalty points and a £200 fine – rather than the former three points and a £100 fine.
Drivers who have passed their test in the last two years will automatically lose their licence, having received six points.
With apps like CityMapper and Google Maps, it’s often easier for drivers to use a mobile handset instead of a traditional sat nav – but unless you can guarantee you won’t need to touch it for the duration of your trip, it would be wise not to use your phone.
The law also applies when drivers are sitting in stationary traffic, so they technically can’t even adjust the route at lights or in a traffic jam.
According to the AA, while it’s an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, this is not the case for hands-free phones.
However, if you’re seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands-free phone you can be prosecuted for that offence.
The penalties for ‘not in proper control’ are a £100 fine and 3 points and up to £1,000 fine if it goes to court.
Make sure you set up your phone properly to use as hands-free before you set off and, if you need to touch your phone at any point during your journey, pull over to do so.
A spokesman for the AA said: “”It should be programmed with the route before you set off.
“If it pops up with a message which requires just one press of a button, such as ‘A faster route has been found. Accept/ Decline’ you should be OK to do this, as you would with an in-built sat-nav.
“But if you need to re-programme the route then pull over and stop somewhere safe to do it.”
Video will play in
Get an appropriate holder
To display your mobile phone so you can hear it while driving – and so you can follow instructions without being too distracted, most drivers will place the handset into a holder which can be attached to the windscreen.
But if police deem this to be obstructing your view, it can count against you. Under the Highway Code, drivers are required to keep windscreens clear.
You can buy holders which attach to your air vents, eliminating this problem.
If in doubt…
Think you won’t be able to go the whole journey without touching your phone? Shut it in the glove compartment – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
And maybe get the old sat nav out for good measure.
If you need to make or take a call
The AA guidance is to leave it to go to voicemail – even if you have a hands-free phone – or to pull over.
If you do use a hands-free phone to talk, keep conversations short and simple or find a safe and legal place to stop and phone them back.