Police Chiefs have warned that motorists that use their mobile phones as SatNavs risk a driving ban as millions prepare to take to the roads for bank holiday getaways.
In April, new and tougher penalties came into force in the hope they would help to clamp down on drivers using mobiles to call and text whilst at the wheel.
As the bank holiday weekend gets underway, drivers have been warned that the strict laws which surround the use of mobile phones at the wheel also extend to using them as SatNavs.
It is not illegal to use a navigation app on a handheld device but drivers can face prosecution if they touch the handset whilst at the wheel.
The maximum penalty for offenders is now a £200 fine and six points or in cases where the driver has held the licence for less than 2 years, the penalty may extend to disqualification from driving.
Police Chiefs have warned motorists that even pressing the screen momentarily to change a route, can result in a fatal accident.
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ council said “Even a moment’s distraction behind the wheel can cost innocent lives.
"If an officer determines that a driver using their SatNav hindered their ability to control the car, the driver could face prosecution resulting in 6 points and a £200 fine.”
Drivers are expected to pull over at a safe spot if they wish to touch their mobile device whilst driving.
The police have warned that they would be using targeted patrols, unmarked vans, helmet cameras and high vantage points to help catch offenders.
In 2015, 22 deaths on the road were attributed to drivers using handheld phones and not all incidents involved making calls.
Motoring groups are now advising that if drivers intend to use their phone as a SatNav they need to pre-programme the route prior to setting off and ensure the device is in a holder out of reach that does not obscure their view of the road.
The warnings have exposed some inconsistency in the law as penalties for using built in or independent sat navs are seen to be more lenient than those involving mobile phones.
Road safety campaigners believe that using a mobile as a SatNav can also lead to drivers giving in to temptation to use the phone for other apps including social media.
The RAC have been running a campaign on the issue and a spokesperson for the RAC said of the matter "You shouldn’t interact with a handheld mobile device at all while driving. The penalties for use of a handheld phone were raised to six penalty points and a £200 fine from 1st April 2017.
"While a quick interaction with an in-built or independent sat-nav (i.e not on a mobile phone) should be acceptable, if a police officer deems you are not in proper control of a vehicle you may still be liable for prosecution.
"The penalty is £100 and 3 penalty points, but the fine could rise to £1,000 if the case reaches a court. The only safe and legal way to use such a device is to pull over, put on the hand brake and switch off your engine.
"If a device stuck to a windscreen obscures your view, you may also be liable. Again, the penalty is £100 and 3 penalty points, but the fine could rise to £1,000 if the case reaches a court.
"But of course in the event of an accident, drivers should expect the police will want to see their device to check for any evidence it was used shortly before that accident."
“The law is intended to minimise accidents caused by driver distraction and courts are taking a very strict approach to application and sentencing. There is good evidence to show that using a mobile phone while driving seriously impairs driver ability (Although not illegal this applies equally to hands free use) if using your phone for its sat nav app.
"Our advice is that you switch off or disable the phone function first”.
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(Original News Source: The Telegraph)