What you need to know about sat navs and safe driving

Instructor demonstrating sat nav control to leaner driver.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 27 April 2021

Learn how to use a sat nav safely and legally. Includes advice on dashboard positioning, using a mobile phone as a sat nav, and following directions.

With so many in-car gadgets available, it's important to know how to use them safely and legally.

Sat navs – whether they’re built-in, standalone or mobile phone apps – have the potential to divert your attention from the road, which increases your risk of having an accident. So it’s important you know how to use them safely.

Positioning a sat nav

The law does not say where you can or cannot put a sat nav, but it does say you must not block your view of the road and traffic ahead.

Fixing it to the windscreen

So if you’re going to fix it to the windscreen, keep it as low down as possible, where it will not affect your view of the road. 

If you’re stopped by the police and you do not have a full view of the road and traffic ahead, you can be fined up to £1,000 and get 3 penalty points on your licence.

Putting it on a dashboard mat

You could put your sat nav on a non-slip dashboard mat (or ‘dashmat’). Do not position it over any airbags, and keep it close to the windscreen so it does not block your view of the road.

Using a mobile phone as a sat nav

Lots of people are now choosing to use a mobile phone and an app instead of a separate sat nav.

To stay legal, use a mount or mobile phone cradle to secure your phone while you’re driving. This can be attached to the window, dashboard of the car, or to the centre console.

It’s illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving – and that includes if you’re using it to follow directions. You’ll get 6 penalty points on your licence and a £200 fine if you’re caught. If you’ve passed your driving test in the last 2 years, it also means you’ll lose your licence, and have to go back to being a learner driver.

Set up the directions before you start your journey, and do not touch your phone until you’ve stopped and the engine is turned off.

While you’re driving

Whatever type of sat nav you use, it’s important you use it safely and legally.

Sat navs do not just give you spoken directions – they also provide you with visual guidance. To use them safely, you need to glance at the screen (when it’s safe), as well as listen to the directions. This should help you to plan ahead and be in the correct lane in good time.

Sat navs are a great driving aid, but we know they’re not always 100% accurate. Stay aware of changing road conditions and do not blindly follow your sat nav’s directions. Remember: always act on the basis of what’s in front of you – not on what the sat nav tells you. 

If you want to go a stage further and get up to speed with practical test, then zoom over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Learning to Drive.

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