Using a mobile phone as a sat nav while driving

08 November 2017

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

If a person uses a mobile phone to navigate (e.g. Google Maps), does that constitute 'use' in the context of using a mobile phone whilst driving, if they appear to be in control of the vehicle?

Answer:

The use of a hand-held phone or a similar hand-held device while driving is against the law, as per regulation 110 of the Road Vehicles Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. A hand-held device is something that is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function. Provided that a phone can be operated without holding it, then hands-free equipment is not prohibited by this legislation. Therefore, the use of a phone as a sat nav is lawful providing you don't have to hold it.

Pushing buttons/touching a phone while it's in a cradle or on the steering wheel or handlebars of a motorbike for example, is not covered by the above offence, provided you don't hold the phone. However, if the driver's control of the vehicle was affected they could commit the offence of not being in proper control of the vehicle under regulation 104 of the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, careless driving under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 or even dangerous driving under section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 – the relevant offence would depend on the circumstances and available evidence.

To read more legislation about this subscribe to PNLD.

Back to Legal Questions