The UK's Growing Number of Drivers on Phones

08 March 2024

Robert Duke
Smartphones have changed a lot about the way we live, including the way people behave when they're driving. Even though it's extremely dangerous and there are laws against it, unfortunately, many can’t resist and still use their mobiles when they’re behind the wheel.

Phone use while driving has been illegal since 2003, although in 2022, new legislation around using smartphones for any use was introduced. Even a quick selfie at the traffic lights is now illegal. 

We did some research into what the laws are around using your phone while driving, how phone use while driving is a problem, how it’s increasing in different places, and what the UK is doing to try to stop it.

Areas with the Biggest Increase in Phone Use While Driving

In some places, more drivers are using their phones compared to last year based on offence data: 

Areas with the biggest increase in phone use while driving
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Across Gwent, there has been a huge 229% increase in phone use while driving. This makes it the area with the biggest increase in phone offences while driving, followed by Wiltshire, where phone offences while driving have doubled (104%). In Surrey, there has been an 80% increase in phone offences while driving. In fact, 73% of all regional police forces that responded reported an increase in overall phone use.

Part of this could just be down to better monitoring and stricter legislation. But, this could also highlight that phone use while driving is an ongoing cause for concern nationwide.

Areas with the Biggest Decrease in Phone Use While Driving

But, there's good news too! Some areas are seeing fewer drivers on their phones:

Areas with The Biggest Decrease in Phone Use While Driving
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Northumbria had the biggest drop in cases at 52%, followed by North Wales at 25%, and there was a 5% drop in South Wales too.

Drivers’ attitudes in these areas may have changed, and we certainly hope that’s the case. However, there have been some high-profile instances of phone use while driving recently; for example, TV presenter Krishan Guru-Murthy pleaded guilty to using his phone while driving in Central London.

Areas with the Most Phone Use While Driving

Looking at additional data, some places really stand out because of the sheer number of offences per 100,000:

Areas with The Most Phone Use While Driving
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Kent caught the eye with 269 offences per 100,000 last year. According to the data, the chances of meeting a driver on the phone, whether texting, scrolling or snapping is fairly high, especially if you drive through there regularly.

Current UK Legislation on Phone Use While Driving

The UK is serious about stopping phone use while driving. Right now, if you're caught with your phone while driving, regardless of reason, you can face a £200 fine and six penalty points on your license. New drivers, who have passed their test in just the past few years, risk losing their license entirely. With repeat offences, you could also be banned entirely and face a maximum of a £1,000 fine if you’re driving a car or a £2,000 fine for lorry & bus drivers.

It is only permitted to use a device if: 

- You need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency
- It’s unsafe or impractical to stop
- You’re safely parked and the ignition is off
- You are making a contactless payment while the vehicle isn’t moving
- Using a device to park your vehicle remotely

Please read more details on the UK government website.

This is all part of a bigger effort to make the roads safer and to stop accidents caused by distractions.

In summary

Stopping phone use while driving takes effort from everyone; the police, the government, community leaders, and drivers themselves. 

While some places are doing better and seeing less phone use, other regions still have a long way to go. The government and other organisations need to keep teaching people about the dangers and using technology that can help enforce the rules.


We got our information from submitting FOI requests to regional police forces, looking at data from November 2021/2022 to November 2022/2023.

We focused on how many people were caught using their phones for every 100,000 people living there, so we could fairly compare different areas no matter how big or small they are. Although analysing year-over-year change was completed using the raw data.