The Crime Prevention Website

Bedfordshire Police have recently begun a campaign to target drivers committing mobile phone related driving offences. They’ve called the campaign ‘where do you keep yours?’; a reference to where you put your mobile phone whilst driving. The campaign started on 10 July.

Statistics across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire show that men aged 21-50 are most likely to use their phone at the wheel with those aged 31 to 40 committing the most offences.

Across these areas men have been responsible for 768 mobile phone related offences so far this year with women responsible for 155.

The article on the Bedfordshire Police website also tells us that the number of mobile phone related driving offences has reduced over the past three years from 989 in 2014 to 593 in 2016 and concludes by reminding us that consequences of using a mobile phone at the wheel can be fatal and the penalty for using a mobile phone at the wheel increased in March with convicted motorists now set to receive six points on their licence and a fine of up to £200.

This news item coincided with an email I received asking me if using a mobile phone as a SatNav would be breaking the law. I’m not sure why I was asked this question as this is not really my subject, but in the interests of crime prevention I did a little online research and I think I’ve come up with the right answer and guidance, so here goes.....

In one article an AA spokesman was quoted as saying: 'Yes you can use your mobile phone as a SatNav, but first invest in a holder or cradle so that you’re not handling the phone while driving and make sure you have programmed in the destination before you set off’.

He then goes on to say: 'If it pops up a message which requires just one press of a button, such as ‘A faster route has been found. Accept/ Decline’ you should be OK to do this, as you would with an in-built SatNav, but if you need to re-programme the route then pull over and stop somewhere safe to do it.

However, a reply to the same question in another article from Acting Police Inspector Phil Grieve from Cleveland Police slightly disagreed with the AA, because he said that although you could use the mobile in a cradle it must not be touched throughout that journey.

In a third article, Nick Lloyd, the road safety manager for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said much the same as the police officer. He said ‘You can use a mobile phone as a SatNav as long as you programme it before you start the car and set off and it's in a holder out of the 45-degree angle of the driver's view. You can’t re-programme or touch it while in motion, which are the same rules that apply for any SatNav.

With all this in mind and noting that the advice from the AA may not be entirely accurate, here’s my conclusion:

You can use your mobile phone as a SatNav so long as you follow these rules: 

  • The phone must be held in a holder/cradle in a position that does not obscure the 45° angle of vision of the driver. In other words, don’t use one of those phone holders that stick to the windscreen, as it may contravene the Highway Code. Use a holder/cradle that hangs from an air vent
  • The destination must be programmed into the SatNav app before you start the vehicle and begin your journey
  • You should follow the verbal directions from the SatNav for the most part and only glance at the screen display occasionally, in the same way as you would check your speed
  • You should never touch the phone during the journey.  This will prevent you from accepting or declining route changes. If you want to change the route you will have to pull off the road, park safely and turn off the engine before accepting a route change or entering in a new destination. Remember that you cannot stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway to do this as using your phone’s navigation app will not be an emergency

Happy motoring!

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