Smartphones are now our constant companions. But in the car they quickly cause distraction and increase the risk of accidents. Therefore, it is forbidden to use a cell phone while driving or while the engine is running.
michaela rassat, a lawyer at ERGO rechtsschutz leistungs-gmbh, knows which exceptions apply, how drivers can still use their phones and what applies to other electronic devices.
According to the road traffic regulations (stvo), drivers are not allowed to use their cell phone while driving or while the engine is running if they have to hold it in their hand to do so – no matter how briefly.
"taboo" is not only talking on the phone with a cell phone on your ear, but also, for example, picking up the phone to check the time and even pushing away a call."
When the car is stationary and the engine is off, you can make calls, write messages or check the weather.
Exception: automatic start-stop?
But beware: drivers are not allowed to use the cell phone if a so-called automatic start-stop system has switched off the engine, for example at a red light. Because in § 23 of the stvo it says:
"the vehicle’s automatic shutdown of the engine in combustion mode or the resting of the electric drive is not a shutdown of the engine in this sense."
Drivers are therefore only allowed to hold and operate the cell phone when the car is stationary and they have switched off the engine completely themselves.
What is allowed?
When the engine is running, talking on the phone is allowed using a hands-free device or a one-sided headset. But even at this, drivers must not hold cell phone in hand. expert rassat therefore recommends using special cell phone holders.
Then even a quick glance at the device or a quick tap or swipe is allowed. Because the stvo says that for operation and use you may briefly look at the device and away from the traffic – but only if the road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions allow it. A "quick glance" should not take any longer than looking in the rearview mirror before turning off.
"typing in a telephone number and writing or reading a message therefore do not fall under this, because this goes well beyond a brief glance."
If you want to call someone while you’re driving, it’s best to use the voice control on your cell phone.
What applies to the navi?
For many drivers, the smartphone also serves as a navigation device. This is also allowed. But here, too, the driver must not pick up the cell phone or hold it in his hand and must be able to concentrate on the traffic. For built-in navigation devices the same rules apply as for cell phones.
This also applies to operation while driving, because inputs on the device usually require more than a quick glance. That means: enter the address before starting the journey.
The ERGO expert advises: "if you want to make changes to the route while driving, you should stop and turn off the engine or ask your passenger to do so."
The same applies to all other electronic devices used for communication, information or organization purposes. These include tablets, laptops, e-books or built-in on-board computers. But there are also exceptions: for example, connecting a cell phone charging cable to a powerbank is permitted according to a ruling by the higher regional court in hamm, Germany.
What are the penalties?
If you are caught driving with a cell phone in your hand or operating other electronic devices while driving without permission, you can expect a fine of at least 100 euros and a point in flensburg. If this endangers other road users or even causes an accident, the driver will be fined 150 or 200 euros respectively, two points in flensburg and a one-month driving ban.