Phone driving laws – can you use your smartphone as a sat nav?
New research has suggested that one in five drivers use their phone to get directions in the UK.
With the updated driving test, which launched on December 4th, now including new drivers to be taught to learn to drive with a sat nav this number is surely set to skyrocket.
The fine doubled to £200 and six penalty points – enough to see a new driver face an instant ban.
The research from insurethebox has also revealed that hundreds of new drivers have received automatic bans for mobile phone usage since the penalties were increased earlier this year.
New drivers can face an instant ban if they accrue six penalty points on their licence within the first year compared to the usual 12.
This fine can also rise to £1,000 if your case is taken to court.
Despite the heftier fines and threat of punishment, it is still not stopping one in five drivers using them.
“Many new drivers will be using their mobile phones to access directions rather than investing in separate satnav devices, as they can add a significant cost – especially for a young driver,” explained Simon Rewell, Road Safety Manager, insurethebox.
“It’s not surprising, therefore, that over 18% of those who completed our survey said they use their phone in the car for directions. But do they realise that it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving?
“This seems to be a grey area – so it’s important that learner drivers gain clear direction from their instructors to understand exactly how and when they can use a mobile phone – and when they must not.
It’s important that learner drivers gain clear direction
“While using a mobile phone hands-free in a car as a sat nav is legal, drivers should enter directions BEFORE starting the journey and the device must be securely fixed in the car.
“However, it is important to note that if this usage distracts the driver and they cause an accident, they can still be prosecuted – regardless of whether the mobile device is securely fixed to the car.
“We urge motorists to avoid ever holding a mobile phone while driving, and to resist the temptation of looking at the phone, even if stuck in a queue of traffic.
“If there is a need to use the phone as a sat nav, motorists should pull over to either add or amend directions.
Drivers must not touch their phone while using it as a sat nav
“The ‘do not disturb’ function that is now so common on mobile devices should be switched on so that there is no risk of distraction while driving.”
According to Mr Rewell the message is not getting through to drivers that driving with a mobile phone is illegal.
He said: “There are still motorists using mobiles, which adds to the distractions they already must cope with – and this is especially risky for less experienced drivers, because of their limited experience on the road.”
Drivers who lose the licence within the first two years in these circumstances would have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence before having to pass both the theory and practical parts of the test again to get a full licence, once the ban is lifted.
Additionally, these drivers would have to declare points on their licence to any new i surer which could result in higher premiums.
In the UK, 290 new drivers were disqualified in the first six months since the change according to figures obtained from the DVLA under a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 5 Live.
The research also found that 7.5 per cent of drivers admitting to using their phone while driving to receive call or send messages.
Under the Highway Code it is legal to use your smartphone while drive as long as you have either a bluetooth handset, voice command system or a dashboard holder.
The driving law which makes using phones while driving illegal while driving still applies to when a car is stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic and supervising a learner driver.
Police forces can still penalise you for using a phone while behind the wheel of a car, even if it is in a hands-free holder, if it is deemed to be distracting.