Is it legal to use a phone as a satnav?

Telematics-based car insurance company, insurethebox, is asking whether learner drivers facing the new driving test launched on 4 December 2017 understand the rules for in-car mobile phone use.

For the first time, the test now includes taking instructions from satnav. But new research conducted by the telematics insurance provider has revealed that nearly 1 in 5 (18.38%) drivers admitted to using their phone for getting directions while driving – despite an increase in fines earlier this year for any hand-held use of a mobile phone while behind the wheel.

‘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. While using a mobile phone hands-free in a car as a satnav 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.’

The research comes as separate data reveals that hundreds of new drivers have been given automatic bans for mobile phone usage since the penalties were increased earlier this year.

insurethebox is concerned that the message that handheld mobile phone usage is illegal is still not getting through to all drivers. Its research also found that 7.5% of motorists admitted to using their phone for making or receiving calls or messaging while driving. For drivers who have held a licence for longer than two years this would result in points on their licence – which could push up their insurance premium immediately or at the time of renewal.

‘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,’ added Simon Rewell.