Motorists face £1000 fine for common sat nav mistakes under Highway Code rules – here’s how to avoid being caught out

A SIMPLE rule change involving sat nav could cost drivers up to £1000.

The Highway Code has new rules on the obstruction of windscreens and the usage of mobile phones which affect any motorist that relies on some form of map software to get around the UK's roads.

Drivers will break these regulations if using their sat nav incorrectly puts themselves and other drivers at risk of an accident – here's how to avoid it.

Positioning your sat nav legally

There are no specific driving rules to say where you can and can't place your sat nav or smartphone in your car.

However, positioning a sat nav in your eyeline while at the wheel, or anywhere else it might obstruct your view of the road ahead could be seen as a driving offence by police.

The Highway Code states that windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision.

It's best to mount your sat nav as low as possible on the windscreen to give yourself as clear a view as possible and ensure you stay within the rules.

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Using your phone as a sat nav

If you're caught by police while holding a mobile phone, regardless of the reason for using it, you're likely to be prosecuted for using a handheld mobile device while driving.

The only exception to this rule is if you are calling 999 or 112 in an emergency and you are unable to stop.

For anyone else, this offence carries a penalty of £200 and six penalty points.

However, if the offence is deemed sufficiently serious, things could get a lot more costly.

You could be taken to court where you can theoretically be banned from driving completely while being slapped with a fine of up to £1000.

The same law applies to holding a sat nav while operating a vehicle, and applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.

You could also be at risk of prosecution for careless driving if your driving is found to be impaired as a result of using a sat nav device, whether or not it’s in your hand.

This is punishable by a maximum unlimited fine and three to nine penalty points.

Touching your sat nav while driving

While the law is clear on prohibiting the use of a handheld device while driving, it is more of a grey area regarding programming a sat nav or smartphone app that’s mounted to your windscreen or dashboard.

To be on the safe side, it's worth remembering that rule 149 of the Highway Code states that a driver must exercise proper control of their vehicle at all times.

You won't be exempt if you use hands-free equipment though, this is also likely to distract your attention from the road, which could leave you open to a charge of careless driving. 

If you really need to touch your sat nav then pull over into a safe place as soon as possible before doing so.

What do experts say?

The consumer advice website Which? tells drivers: "You’re the one in control of your vehicle.

"It is your responsibility to ensure you adhere to all relevant driving regulations.

"Satellite navigation is intended as a driver’s aid, and not a fool proof device to depend on absolutely.

"You won’t be able to use poor sat nav guidance as a defence in the event that it sends you the wrong way down a one-way street, or you drive your car off a quayside."

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