Can I pick up the mobile phone when my girlfriend calls? Can I take a picture of the beautiful view when I drive over the Great Belt Bridge? Can I change the GPS route when I’m on the road?
Inattention is estimated by the authorities to be a decisive factor in one third of all traffic accidents. This has meant that the Road Traffic Act has made it illegal to use hand-held devices while driving a vehicle.
According to Section 55a of the Road Traffic Act, you may not use handheld telecommunications equipment and other handheld communication devices while driving as the driver of the vehicle . But what does that really mean?
What does vehicles mean?
Vehicles are not just cars and lorries – you must also pay attention to the rule if you cycle, ride a moped, motorcycle, electric scooter and the like.
Which devices are covered?
Telecommunications equipment and communication devices include, in addition to a mobile phone, tablets, GPSs, computers, smart watches and whatever communication gadgets technology can come up with in the future. If you can communicate through the device, do not use it while driving!
What is “use”?
The prohibition includes any use of the hand-held device including, among other things, receiving and making calls, receiving and making SMS or MMS, using the internet for e.g. reading emails, and using the camera to take pictures or video.
So if during the drive you think ” What time is it ?”, don’t pick up your mobile phone to look at the clock on the display – because then you are using your mobile phone, which is illegal!
Conversely, you cannot be punished for looking at your smartwatch to see the time, because here you do not need to use the device.
Even if the mobile phone is switched off and you only need to put it in your bag, it is use. So you cannot get out of the penalty on the grounds that you have neither received a call nor an SMS or the like.
Requirements for physical use
Only handheld use is prohibited. That is, if you can use the voice activation, a headset or the vehicle’s own buttons to start and end the call, then there are no problems. Because then you don’t use the device physically.
If your mobile is attached to a holder in the vehicle, then you are also outside the scope of the law.
However, you should be aware that if, due to inattention when using the hands-free use of the mobile phone, you wobble between road lanes or the like, you will still be punished according to the general provisions of the Road Traffic Act on vigilance and considerate driving. So even if you follow the rules for hand-held devices, you still have to do it in a way where you are aware of the traffic.
What if I’m sitting in a queue and not actually driving?
It is during the entire drive that you must not use the device – so also if you are queuing on the motorway or waiting for a green light.
If you want to use the device physically, you must pull over to the side and switch off the car before it is legal.
What is the punishment?
If you were to take your mobile phone while waiting for a red light, this would result in a cut in your driving license and a fine of DKK 1,500.
Drivers of bicycles, mopeds and electric scooters are exempt from the penalty, but still have to pay the fine.
By associate attorney Mette Tarp Pedersen