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10 May 2019

Does checking your phone while behind the wheel invalidate your car insurance?

Find out what a quick glance at social media could mean for an insurance claim

Former England Captain, David Beckham, has been given a six-month driving ban for using his mobile phone behind the wheel.

The football star was photographed by a member of public holding a phone as he drove in what was described as “slow moving” traffic. The incident landed him six points on his licence - adding to the six he already had for previous speeding offences as well as a £750 fine.

Despite it being illegal to use your phone while driving, almost a quarter of 18 to 34-year-olds admit to checking their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed behind the wheel, new research from Privilege car insurance shows.

The results echo worries expressed by 40% of drivers who are concerned about the number of people looking at their phones while on the road, according to the latest RAC Motoring Report.

Checking your phone behind the wheel could lead to serious issues regarding your car insurance, should you have to make a claim and when it comes to renewal.

Here, we explore whether your car insurance provider will still cover you if you're caught using social media while driving.

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Is it illegal to check your phone behind the wheel?

While it may seem harmless to glance at your social feed or send a quick WhatsApp message when you're waiting at a red light, using a handheld phone while driving, under any circumstances, is illegal in the UK.

Whenever your engine is running your phone should be nowhere near your hands - even if your car has 'stop-start' technology where the engine cuts off to save fuel.

This means that even if you quickly check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed while stopped at a red light or caught in traffic, you're breaking the law.

Mobile phone driving laws have become increasingly stringent to help protect motorists.

They were first introduced in December 2003. In 2007, the penalty became three points on your licence and a fine of £60 - and this increased to £100 in 2013.

In 2017, the penalty doubled, meaning that currently if you're caught using your phone while driving you could get six points on your licence and a £200 fine.

Will car insurance cover youif you havea driving conviction?

Receiving a driving conviction doesn't automatically invalidate your car insurance policy if you end up having to make a car insurance claim.

There is a greater risk, however, of your car insurance claim being rejected by your provider.

A spokesperson from Axa told us: 'If caught breaking the law, customers not only risk having related claims declined, but also their insurance costing more at renewal or their insurer declining to renew their policy entirely.'

When you get a driving conviction, this information isn't automatically passed on to your insurer and it's up to you to inform them.

Failing to do so could result in your car insurance policy being invalidated.

We also spoke with Aviva, who told us: 'If a driver does receive a motoring conviction, they need to ensure they inform their insurer and may find it will impact on their future insurance costs.

'A failure to disclose could invalidate their future insurance. We would always advise people not to take any chances and give us all the required information.'

What did other car insurance providers say?

We spoke to a number of car insurance providers to understand their approach to dealing with claims where a customer has received a driving conviction for using social media behind the wheel.

Here's what they had to say:

Ageas:'Our stance will differ depending on the individual circumstances of the incident. If a customer receives a motoring conviction for using a mobile phone while driving, they would need to notify us (as they should for any motoring conviction). We would encourage all road users to respect the law and drive safely.'

Co-op insurance: 'A driver accessing any form of social media or messaging app while driving would not invalidate their motor insurance or result in a claim being repudiated.

'However, accessing social media or anything else via a handheld device while driving, including while stopped at a red light or stationary in a traffic jam, constitutes a serious motoring offence.

'A conviction for driving without due care and attention could have even more serious implications, [including] a restriction in the number of insurers prepared to offer motor insurance and a significant increase in insurance premiums combined with restricted cover or an increased policy excess until the conviction is spent.'

Esure:'Cover for a claim could be excluded if an accident has occurred as the result of the driver acting in an illegal or reckless manner when they were at the wheel and we are notified of this behaviour. Any type of motoring conviction will lead to higher insurance premiums.'

Hastings Direct:'If a driver has received a motoring conviction from using a mobile device while driving, their eligibility to be insured with Hastings would be assessed through risk acceptance by the underwriters when taking out a new policy and at renewal.'

NFU Mutual: 'Whether or not social media would be ground to reject a claim would really have to be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all the facts of the claim.

'If drivers use a handheld device while driving, this could result in a police penalty which would have an impact on their insurance premium. So, driving responsibly and within the law makes sense all round.'

Swinton:'While there aren't currently any insurance providers who will specifically invalidate a claim if drivers are believed to be using social media when an accident occurs, police can review mobile phone usage in their investigations into an accident.

'If this leads to them applying any driving offences, such as bans based on dangerous driving, this could impact your claim and even your ability to obtain insurance in future, in the most extreme circumstances.