Can you see where to go and where you’re going?

Blog post posted on 16/01/18 |

A police officer recently tweeted that the only legal place to mount a satnav is on the bottom right hand corner of the windscreen of a car. The tweet was taken down fairly quickly but had been seen by a journalist who has an interest in motoring and raised the question - was the police officer right?

There is a lot of information online that says you shouldn’t mount a satnav in the swept area of the windscreen (that’s the bit the wipers sweep). The explanation given is that the MOT test has a requirement for the swept area to be kept clear, and so it is illegal to obstruct it.

For many people of course, this is a totally irrelevant as satnavs have moved on from being that little device on a sucker stuck somewhere on the screen, to being part of the dashboard. And the satnav mounting on a motorbike is another thing altogether…

But for those who still rely on their portable satnav, positioning it correctly can be a bit tricky. I know I still use my trusted little grey box to tell me how to reach my destination when travelling to a new place.

There is no offence that I have ever heard of that says that having something on your car that can result in an MOT failure is against the law. For example, having a spare tyre which is below pressure in the boot of your car may prompt an MOT fail, but the thought of it being a criminal offence to do so is totally nonsense. You may have just changed it because it’s got a puncture!

I place my satnav at the bottom of the screen, where the only thing it stops me seeing is the bonnet. I put it where it will not be sent into someone’s face by an airbag deploying. I put it where I can see it easily at a glance if I need to look at it, so it isn’t a big distraction when checking a verbal instruction on the screen. 

I also hate loose wires that are draped around the inside of the car, so it is centrally placed at the bottom of the screen and under the mirror - it must look awful from the outside. But my seating position is quite high, so the satnav is not an obstruction to me or my view of the road.

So, according to all the advice, including the police officer’s original tweet, my satnav is in the wrong place. But I would argue that we all sit differently and have different cars. So where each driver decides to put their satnav should always be a matter of judgement. That’s no excuse for sticking it in your eye line. But - to repeat the point above - there is no law I have heard of that automatically makes it an offence to be in contravention of the MOT test criteria. They can be more stringent than the criminal law. The key is to choose a safe and sensible location, where it is a help, and not an obstruction or distraction whilst driving.

By Peter Rodger, IAM RoadSmart's head of driving advice