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Can you use your mobile as a sat nav?

Date: Tue 17th July 2018   |   Author: L Blake

What are the mobile phone driving laws?

Using a handheld device whilst driving is illegal, whether you are driving or a passenger supervising a learner driver. Though the driving law was first introduced back in December 2003, the penalty doubled in March 2017 – so those caught using a mobile phone whilst driving will face a £200 fine and receive six points on their licence.

The Highway Code states that it is illegal to hold a mobile phone or sat nav whilst driving, even momentarily. You must have hands-free access, such as:

  • A bluetooth headset
  • A built-in sat nav
  • A dashboard holder or mat
  • A windscreen mount

But the device must not obstruct your view of the road or the traffic ahead. The police can stop you if they think that you’re not in control because you are distracted and you may be prosecuted.

You can use a mobile phone when you are parked up safely but this does not apply when you are waiting in queuing traffic or have stopped at traffic lights. Your car must be parked with the ignition turned off.

You may only use your handheld device whilst driving if you need to call 999 or 112 (the emergency number in the European Union) in an emergency and it is unsafe or impractical to stop driving.

What are the penalties for using your phone whilst driving?

If you are an experienced driver caught using a handheld device whilst driving you will be faced with a £200 fine and six penalty points on your licence.

New drivers who have been driving for less than two years will lose their licence. Drivers are only allowed to receive a maximum of six penalty points within their first two years of driving, compared to the usual twelve points.

Receiving twelve points within a three year period will result in losing your licence – that’s two mobile phone incidents!

According to the RAC, if the authorities consider the offence to be an extreme example of using a handheld device behind the wheel, the driver could be taken to court. This could result in a driving ban and a maximum fine of £2,000.

In serious cases where an accident is caused due to the use of a handheld device, a two-year ban is obligatory. The government is also considering increasing the penalty for death by careless or dangerous driving.

How to safely use your mobile as a sat nav

Using a sat nav app is an inexpensive way to get from A to B without breaking the bank purchasing a new sat nav device. However, it goes without saying that if you plan to use a sat nav app on your mobile device whilst driving, you need to make sure that you’re not breaking any driving laws.

To ensure your safety and the safety of others, you will need to:

Pre-programme your destination

Pre-programming your destination in before you set off will mean that you do not have to touch the device whilst driving. If you are caught touching or holding your device whilst driving, even momentarily, you will be held accountable.

If your route needs to be changed at any time whilst driving, you must pull over and park up safely before doing so.

Use a mount or holder

Your device needs to be completely hands-free but it also needs to be safe to use. Placing your mobile in the car door or on the seat next to you will cause you to take your eyes off the road, affect your concentration and your control of the vehicle. This can result in prosecution.

You will need to get a dashboard mat or windscreen holder to use your device safely and legally. Mounts, holders and mats are relatively inexpensive and will save you money (and penalty points) in the long run.

The device must be securely attached. A good tip would be to check that your device is secure before you start driving, when you are programing in the destination address. This will prevent your device from coming loose whilst driving.

Position your device safely

Whether you are using a dashboard mount or a windscreen holder, you will need to be mindful of the positioning. Can you see clearly or is your view impaired? Will the positioning of the device affect your driving in some way?

Whilst there is no driving law to suggest the correct place to position your mobile device holder, The Highway Code states that “windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision.”

Driving safety tips

  • Check your mobile settings – when using a mobile device as a sat nav it is important to remember that the device is still a mobile. You should make sure that incoming calls and messages do not interrupt your sat nav app whilst you are driving. This could affect your concentration and you could even be tempted to answer.
  • Double check your destination – when programming it in it is worth double-checking that you have the right details before you set off. Not only will this prevent you from getting lost or having to pull up and  redirect your sat nav, but you will also have an idea of the route ahead. Sometimes sat navs get it wrong – if you know which direction you are going in you will be able to detect if you are heading the wrong way.
  • Turn it up – try to avoid repeatedly glancing at your sat nav by turning up the volume so that you can hear the directions being given. Even a correctly positioned sat nav can take your attention off of the road if you are continuously having to look to check the directions.
  • Remember who is in charge – whilst sat navs are a great way to get from A to B and prevent us getting lost on the roads, it is important to remember who is driving. Be sure to pay attention to road signs, other traffic and the road conditions ahead. Don’t blindly follow your sat nav!

We hope you found this article on using your mobile as a sat nav helpful. For more driving tips and other interesting articles, visit the Auto Protect engage page.