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Using devices while driving

The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free device is not permitted while driving a motor vehicle. The prohibition on distracting use also applies to cyclists. GPS devices must be positioned so that they do not obstruct the driver’s view. It is advisable to put your mobile phone away while driving, to avoid being tempted to use it.

Approximately one in seven drivers in Finland end up in a hazardous situation due to the use of a mobile phone while driving. According to traffic accident investigation boards, each year around 3 to 5 fatal traffic accidents involve the use of mobile phones.

In nearly half of them the driver has been messaging or accessing social media while driving (the Liikenteen ilmapiiri study 2018).

The law prohibits the use of communication devices while driving

According to the law, motor vehicle drivers must not use hand-held communication devices while driving. In addition, technical devices must not be used in the vehicle in any way that could make driving difficult or dangerous. The prohibition on distracting use applies to all drivers, including cyclists.

Impact of mobile phone use on driving

Using a mobile phone while driving is problematic in terms of both handling the phone and having a conversation, both of which affect the driver’s attention and coordination. Think carefully whether you need to use your phone at all while driving. Sometimes a phone call can improve your alertness, but it can also be distracting, for example, if the topic of conversation is upsetting.

Using a phone is particularly dangerous in slippery conditions, congested traffic or poor visibility, when the risk of an accident is already higher. The use of a mobile phone is always a distraction from observing the traffic and makes you more susceptible to accidents.

Studies show that both handling a phone and dealing with a message lead to a 0.5 second increase in reaction time. According to traffic researchers, handling a phone

  • impacts concentration
  • impedes the use of driving controls
  • causes variations in vehicle speed and impacts lane discipline, disrupting other traffic
  • impacts lane discipline
  • can cause hazards when the driver drifts to the middle or the right-hand edge of the road.

If you use a mobile phone while driving:

  • Use hands-free devices.
  • Position the phone correctly.
  • Use the phone only in low and safe traffic.
  • Use directory and connection services.
  • Use speed dial and redial functions.
  • Tell the other person immediately that you are driving.
  • Keep it brief.
  • Avoid stressful conversations.

The GPS device

The GPS device must be positioned so that it does not obstruct the driver’s view. Its use must not impede the use of driving controls or otherwise impact the driver’s concentration.

When purchasing a GPS device,

  • opt for a large screen and ease of use
  • check that the device is voice-controlled
  • compare the coverage of manufacturers’ map services, and
  • think about how you will mount it inside your vehicle.

The GPS device should be positioned carefully.

It should not block or impede visibility. You should be able to glance at the device with as little eye movement as possible. The driver is responsible for the device while driving.

The device must be mounted correctly so that it cannot fall off during the journey or in the event of a collision. The device must not be positioned in the way of air bags.

Practise using your GPS device

You should programme and test your GPS device before you start driving with it. Practise using the device in a familiar environment so that you don’t become too distracted by the device. The safest way to test your device is to first use it in quiet traffic.

The GPS device does not recognise traffic situations or signals. The driver is responsible for driving, and the instructions given by the device should not be followed unquestioningly.

If something goes wrong, it is best to carry on driving. If you deviate from the suggested route, don’t panic – drive on until the GPS calculates a new route. If the GPS malfunctions, stop where possible, e.g. on a lay-by.

Although GPS navigators can improve safety, any device that demands the driver’s attention is a safety risk if used incorrectly.