Is Using a Phone as a Sat-Nav Legal?

Are there any laws about what you can use as a sat-nav?

Technically, yes. But not in the way you might think…

Can You Use a Phone as a sat-nav?

There are clear UK laws when it comes to using both sat-navs and mobile phones to navigate while driving. In short, you must not hold or touch the device at any point during your journey.

Many drivers now use smartphones instead of standalone sat-navs. All the rules that apply to using sat-navs while driving also apply to smartphones – you’ll have to place it somewhere it’s easy to see, but not somewhere that’ll obstruct your view.

So make sure you’ve got your route planned before you set out. And if you have to make any adjustments, pull over to a safe place first.

And don’t be tempted to check your texts or social media when following directions on a smartphone.

UK Law and where to put your phone as a sat-nav

There are no clear laws when it comes to where to put a sat-nav or mount a smart phone on your windscreen. But that does not mean that you can just stick it anywhere…

The fact is, all drivers are legally obliged to stay in full control of their cars at all times. A major part of this is ensuring that you have a clear and unobstructed view of the road ahead. So if you place your phone somewhere that obstructs your view, or that causes you to take your eyes off the road to look at it, police may class it as “careless driving”. The same applies if you check your texts or social media instead of following your map.

There are strict penalties for “careless driving”. You could get an on-the-spot fine of £100, and up to three points on your licence.

So Where Should You Put a Phone on Your Windscreen?

You need to place your phone or sat-nav somewhere where it won’t block your view, and where you won’t have to take your eyes off the road to check it. So for best results, place it as low on your windscreen as you can, either to your left or right.

It’s important to get the right balance: Put it straight in front of you and it’ll be too distracting. But put it too far away and you’ll have to turn your head to look at it, which is also distracting.

Of course, it’s also possible to buy devices that you can mount to your dashboard instead of the windscreen. These might be the ideal choice, as they’ll ensure that the sat-nav will not obscure your view at all. But again, it’s important to place the device somewhere it won’t be too much of a strain to check it.

Sat-navs have become such an essential part of the driving experience that they’re now included in some driving tests. They’re undeniably useful, but it’s important to ensure that they don’t get in the way of safe driving. Because if you’re involved in an incident, and it’s discovered that it was caused by an obscured windscreen or because you were using your phone for other purposes, it may affect your insurance settlement. Check your policy wording for more information.


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