Police chiefs have warned that drivers using their mobile phone to navigate while driving will be treated just the same as if they were calling or texting while driving.
The clampdown on motorists using mobile phones to call and text at the wheel began in April, but drivers have been warned this also extends to using their phones as satnavs while they drive.
It is not illegal to run a navigation app while driving, but motorists can face prosecution if they touch the device while driving.
The financial penalty for touching your phone while at the wheel has been doubled to £200, as well as receiving six penalty points – which could see new drivers disqualified.
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs Council said:
“If an officer determines that a driver using their satnav hindered their ability to control the car, the driver could face prosecution.”
The harsh penalties show the current inconsistencies in the law between using a dedicated satnav device over using mobile phone apps, which follows a recent study by uSwitch which found that UK drivers had become ‘satnav junkies’ which leads to more dangerous driving habits.
According to the report, 5% of drivers get caught speeding because they rely on their satnav which shows the wrong or outdated speed limit for the road.
The over-reliance on satnavs has led to almost 20% of drivers to make dangerous manoeuvres such as changing lanes, performing U turns or driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
The findings are backed-up by a separate survey conducted by Post Office Money which found that 7 million UK adults had never used a roadmap, and 2.5 million admitted to not even knowing how to use one.
What exactly is the law on using mobile phones while driving?
Quite simply, it is now illegal to use any hand-held device while you are driving. This includes mobile phones, tablets and cameras. This rule applies even if your vehicle is stationary e.g. queuing in traffic or stopped at a junction/traffic lights etc…
The only time a driver can use a phone while at the wheel is in the case of a real emergency that requires them to call 999 or 112. Other than that, you are expected to pull over and park the car before using your mobile phone or any other device.
Motorists are expected to always be in full control of their vehicle, so if a police officer feels they are not in full control because they are using a phone or even tuning their radio then the driver could face prosecution.
The law also states that anyone supervising a learner driver is also banned from using a phone or any other hand held device, even though they are in the passenger seat.
Breaking these laws can result in the driver receiving a fine of £200 as well as six penalty points on their licence.
If the case proceeds to court then the maximum fine can be £1,000 as well as a driving ban.
If you are caught using your phone while driving a lorry or bus then the maximum fine can be £2,500.
Beware: even if you attach your phone or sat-nav to the windscreen you can also face prosecution if the device obscures the area swept by the windscreen wipers.