The Law: Mobile phones at the wheel

December 8, 2016
Lucrecia Velez Wolff
police car

It’s no secret that mobile phone usage while driving is commonplace in today’s world, but it is also highly dangerous. Modern mobile phones are not only made for voice calling, but also for texting, browsing, taking pictures and more.

As a result, the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers has significantly increased in the last decades. As a countermeasure, many countries are beginning to implement strict laws to ban the use of phones in the car. Some countries are going further by threatening confiscation of driving licenses, heavy fines and even in some cases jail sentences.

United States of America

The U.S is composed by 50 states in which penalties for the use of phones while driving can vary. Depending on the state you’re driving in, you could pay up to a $10,000 fine and spend a year in prison if caught using your cell phone for texting while driving (Alaska).

There is no state that completely bans cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states including Washington D.C. prohibit the use of phones by teen or novice drivers. In 20 states and D.C the use of mobile phones by school bus drivers is prohibited.

Furthermore, 14 states, D.C, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban all type of drivers from using hand-held cell phones in the car - hands-free equipment is ok though.

In the case of text messaging, 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S Virgin Islands prohibits usage for all drivers, of which two states prohibit novice drivers and three states for school bus drivers.

mobile phone usage while driving

England, Scotland and Wales

In the U.K the current penalties for the use of cell phones in the car is three points on the driving license and an £100 fine. However this is not showing the expected results and thus new tougher rules expected for 2017 accompanied by a strong campaign to encourage people to stop this practice.

Drivers who use handheld mobile phones will pay up to £200 and will receive six points on their driving license. Furthermore, drivers could go to court by the second time they get caught, pay fines of up to £1,000 and receive at least a six-month driving ban.


Currently Germany has a ban on using mobile phones while driving, but the law is not very specific plus the fines are rather low. This could change in the near future as Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt announced plans to extend the ban to devices like tablets, e-books or VR glasses and also increase the fine for repeated violation. The increase will be from €60 to €100 and even up to €200 in cases of major violations. If other road users are endangered, this can lead to a one-month driving ban.

Other countries

Many other countries have also banned using cell phones when driving unless they are used with a hands-free kit. These include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and many others.

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