posted 1 year ago

Drivers Still Confused Over Rules On Using Mobile Phones As Sat Navs

Police postcode pandemonium causes confused drivers...

We should by now all be aware that driving whilst using your phone is about as dangerous as performing dentistry on a fully conscious and unrestrained lion. You should keep both eyes on the road and both hands upon the wheel – right? 

Yet it is still a common sight to see drivers obviously flaunting this, texting, taking and making calls, among other activities probably best done when not in charge of a vehicle. Indeed the law was changed recently to actually further induce drivers not to use their mobile phones while driving. You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone.

You can also be taken to court, where you can:

*Be banned from driving or riding

*Get a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or bus)

It’s even harsher if you have passed your test within the last two years – if you are caught ‘using’ your phone while driving you will lose your licence.

Perhaps they think those who have passed most recently should know better?

Certainly, new drivers are practiced in the art of having both hands on the wheel, yet the new driving exam also tests drivers’ ability to use sat nav. Interestingly the use of sat nav on mobile phones is what is causing the confusion for both drivers and Police officers alike.

The vast majority of new cars these days come with their own built in sat nav system, however, most people do not drive around in new cars. They use devices such as a TomTom, Garmin or indeed their own mobile phone to provide guidance.  Now most of us will pre-programme our journey into the device or phone before we set off. However there may well be times when we need to touch the screen for some reason, I am as guilty as most with this. 

Currently, the Government’s Department for Transport states drivers should not ‘use’ their phone at the wheel. It is the word ‘use’ that police forces and individual officers have to interpret. What actually constitutes ‘use’ of a phone while driving? If you touch the screen of your phone to zoom in on a map, for example, are you ‘using’ the phone?

At the moment drivers in the UK are finding a lack of consistency when it comes to the enforcement of the law. In one area of Britain, you could get away with using your phones sat nav function whereas in others you may well find yourself pulled over and fined. 

It is, at the moment, a police officer’s job to interpret the law and apply it as they see fit. However, it would appear that we as ordinary citizens are not the only ones who struggle to understand the true meaning of the law;

If the rule is left to open interpretation on sat nav use then we will never have a consistency across the entire road network, leaving more sceptical people to conclude that the fining of drivers for breaking the law is some sort of money making scam rather than a punishment for the breaking of a law. 

Donal Lawler, the secretary of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘The law is open to interpretation because the offence is using a mobile phone rather than holding a mobile phone. It’s absolutely right that we should get to a situation where the lay person has clarity, particularly in court.’

The Crown Prosecution Service states in its guidelines that ‘there has been some debate about what “use” means.’

‘A phone or device will be in use where it is making or receiving a call, or performing any other interactive communication function whether with another person or not,’ according to the guidelines.

‘The particular use to which the mobile phone must be put is not defined as an element of the offence. The prosecution must merely prove that the phone or the other device was hand held by the person at some point during its use at a time when the person was driving a vehicle on a road’.

So do yourself a favour and don’t become subject to the interpretation of police officers – make sure you do not use your phone whilst driving.