Sat-nav in a fix

Sat-nav in a fix

Like loads of bikers nowadays, instead of a sat-nav, I use my smartphone mounted on the handlebars.

I had ridden a couple of hundred miles to visit my cousin and her new born baby and was within striking distance of her house when my phone had a bit of a hissy fit. I pulled over and removed the phone from the handlebars and had it in my hand when some jumped up kid copper pulled up and nicked me.

I told him I wasn’t doing anything illegal as I wasn’t making a call but trying to find out where I was on Google maps. He reckons because I was still astride my SV650, engine running and phone in hand, I was in fact breaking the law and gave me a fixed penalty offer.

I told him I would see him in court. The smarmy kid laughed and said he’d see me there! Now I’m all for nicking people on phones while they’re driving as it’s dangerous but I’ve done nothing wrong.

I’ve been a teacher for 30 years and am a great public speaker. Do you agree I will teach the kid a lesson in court?


The short answer is no. Being a teacher and a great public speaker will not help you I’m afraid. Not even being royalty will help as you have in fact broken the law.

If you had turned off the engine and got off the bike to hold and look at the map on your phone then there would have been no issue. However, as the law states it’s illegal to hold a phone to perform “an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data” i.e. looking at Google maps while riding or driving, the policeman, is legally correct.

My advice is accept the fixed penalty offer of £200 and six points. It will be cheaper and quicker.

Andrew ‘Chef’ Prendergast

Motorcycle Monthly January 2019

Posted by Andrew Prendergast. Last modified: December 14, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Andrew has been riding motorcycles since he was 10 years old and currently rides a ZZR1400 as his daily commuter whether it is sunny or snowing. In addition, he is currently restoring an old Honda CB750 K1. Andrew practices across all areas of motorcycle law, with his practice involving both civil claims and motoring defence work.
Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.


  1. Neil FlanaganJune 17, 2019

    Hi Andrew,

    This is an interesting subject, because where would the line drawn with regards to defining what it is to be ‘driving’ or ‘riding’ a vehicle? In the case of a motorcycle; Does the engine have to be running? Does the rider need to be wearing a helmet even if he/she is sat astride the vehicle on a public highway etc.



  2. Andrew Prendergast - Managing PartnerJune 17, 2019

    Dear Neil

    Many thanks for your comment. With regards to where the line is “drawn with regards to defining what it is to be ‘driving’ or ‘riding’ a vehicle” is very much fact dependant and each case turns on its own points.

    What I can say is there a bucket load of case law on the subject spanning back over the decades that I won’t even try to condense and reply with. However, to keep it simple, if you want to avoid any issues, my advice is park up somewhere safe; turn the engine off; get off the motorbike; and then look at your phone etc. if you need to. If you don’t, you risk getting into bother with the law.

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About Motorcycle Monthly

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The MCM legal column is compiled by managing partner Andrew 'Chef' Prendergast and his bike-riding barristers and solicitors at White Dalton Motorcycle Solicitors.

The firm deals with personal injury claims and its sister company, Motor Defence Solicitors, deals with all the motoring offences.

White Dalton lawyers have a vast knowledge of bike law, and they have full bike licences, too. They don’t act for insurance companies or the prosecution.

White Dalton is Britain’s premier specialist motorcycle law practice, and if its professionals don’t know the answer to your question, there probably isn’t one. Don’t rely on the advice from your insurance appointed solicitor, get proper independent advice.

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