In the last couple of years, I have used my smartphone sat-nav in the car while driving. I had a holder for it, but it broke.
Since then, I have been simply using the sat nav by either having it on the passenger seat or in the cup holder near the gearbox.
I have the voice on directing me and very occasionally glance at it to make sure I’m going the right way, such as when I’m stuck at a traffic light.
However, I know there are now stricter rules around using mobile phones in vehicles and want to make sure using the sat-nav this way is legal.
Phone-nav: It is likely that many drivers now use their smartphone as a sat-nav
Lee Boyce, consumer affairs editor at This is Money, replies: In March 2017, stricter penalties came into play when it comes to using your mobile phone at the wheel.
You can now receive six penalty points and a £200 fine if you use one while driving.
For those who have had their licence for under two years, it would result in losing it if caught.
The move is to stop drivers being distracted while driving, in the advent of a boom in smartphone usage.
Most smartphones have an in-built sat-nav, which often uses Google Maps or Apple Maps.
This means many may have done away with having a separate sat-nav system in their car, if there isn’t already one in-built.
The safest way to use it as a sat-nav is to have a holder for the smartphone, as you had previously.
You cannot touch the phone while driving and it needs to have the route loaded before you set off.
It also should be properly mounted. This means it needs to be in a position that doesn’t obscure your view.
Sat-nav usage in vehicles is now part of the driving test.
According to the gov.uk website while using a smartphone sat-nav: ‘You must have hands-free access, such as a bluetooth headset voice command, a dashboard holder or mat, a windscreen mount or an built-in sat nav.
‘The device must not block your view of the road and traffic ahead.
‘You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted.
‘The law still applies to you if you’re: stopped at traffic lights queuing in traffic supervising a learner driver.’
We asked the Department for Transport for a definitive answer. It says it is not illegal to use your mobile phone as a sat-nav device provided it is used in a hands free way – for example, in a cradle, voice activated or with headset.
However, if the driver picks it up and holds it for example to change instructions during the journey the driver is at risk of being caught for the offence of using a hand held phone when driving.
Even if a device is used in a hands free way drivers must always be in control of the car – a driver is at risk of prosecution by the police of not being in control of the vehicle. This is set out in the Highway Code under Rules 149 and 150.
This means that the police could, in theory, pull you over for having the smartphone on the passenger seat or cup holder as it may be classed as a distraction – you’d potentially have your eyes off the road.
The gov.uk website adds: ‘You can get three penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.’
To be safe and to stay on the right side of the law, it is worth investing in a new cradle rather than continuing to drive with the phone in the cup holder or passenger seat.
They can be picked up in retailers for a relatively low cost.
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