Can you switch off the government's emergency phone alert while driving - or will you get fined?


The government has announced it plans to test the new UK Emergency Alert Service nationwide in April, and drivers have been warned that reacting to it while behind the wheel could see them hit with a big fine and six penalty points on their licence.
Here is what motorists need to know about the alert test, how to deal with it when driving, and when it will happen.

Can you look at your phone to read the emergency alert message in the UK?Can you look at your phone to read the emergency alert message in the UK?.  (Credit:

What is the emergency mobile phone alert?

The emergency alert will play like a 'siren' on your mobile phone. It is designed to be used to warn British citizens of serious, life-threatening national, or local emergencies. These could be anything from flooding to fires, or even terrorist attacks.
When is the exact time and date the emergency alert test take place
The test will take place on at 3pm Sunday, 23 April 2023. The alert will be broadcast to all compatible mobile phones across the UK. The alert will even sound if the phone is in silent mode. 

What happens when the alert sounds?

The alert will sound and there will be a message on the phone, informing people of the emergency. On this occasion, it will let phone users know that it is a test and no action is needed.
The alert and vibration will continue for 10 seconds and will sound on all 4G and 5G phone.

What will the emergency alert sound like?

You can watch the following video to see a simulation of what the mobile alert will sound like.

Can I turn it off or read the emergency message while driving?

You cannot read the emergency text, or pick up your phone to switch off the alert while driving. Doing so could see you handed a fine of up to £200 and awarded six penalty points on your licence.
The official government advice for drivers receiving the test, or any subsequent emergency alert, is as follows:
  • You should not read or otherwise respond to an emergency alert whilst driving or riding a motorcycle.
  • If you are driving, you should continue to drive and not respond to the noise or attempt to pick up the mobile phone and deal with the message.
  • Find somewhere safe and legal to stop before reading the message. If there is nowhere safe or legal to stop close by, and nobody else is in the vehicle to read the alert, tune into live radio and wait for bulletins until you can find somewhere safe and legal to stop.

Could the alert cause people to crash their car?

Despite the alert being widely publicised, it is inevitable that not everyone will know about the upcoming test and could be shocked or confused by an alarm sounding on their phone while driving. While unlikely, some people may lose concentration and make an accident more likely - so it would be sensible to take extra care during the alert and a few seconds afterwards, just in case - especially on busy road such as motorways.  

Can you turn off the emergency alerts on your phone?

You can opt out by searching for emergency alerts on your phone. You can then turn off 'severe alerts' or 'extreme alerts'. If you do so, you will not receive genuine alerts and could put your safety at risk.

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Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

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