Liable to fines? Permissibility of touchscreen operation while driving a car

The use of electronic devices while driving, quickly falls under § 23 abs. 1a stvo. But in the meantime, touchscreens are used to control functions in the car, for example in the "tesla" the intervals of the windshield wiper. Are touchscreens allowed to be used for this purpose and if so, what are the requirements?? A ruling by the Higher Regional Court (OLG).

a motorist was in his vehicle of the brand "tesla" in the rain" on the road, the windshield wiper were already switched on. As it was raining more heavily, he wanted to touch the touchscreen, which was mounted next to the steering wheel above the center console, by another interval circuit the increase wiper frequency.

Landed in the ditch while regulating the windshield wiper frequency via touchscreen

During this action, however, the driver left the road, drove down an embankment and collided with several trees, among other things.

The judge had determined on the basis of the operating instructions that the windshield wiper of the "tesla" could be switched on and off at the steering wheel, but that the intervals had to be set on the "touchscreen" by first touching a windshield wiper symbol and then selected in a submenu between five settings becomes.

Touchscreen more distracting than conventional windshield wiper operation

This operation requires significantly more attention from the driver than operating a windshield wiper with the conventional fittings. The local court karlsruhe sentenced him for improper use of an electrical device while driving according to § 23 abs. 1a stvo to a fine of 200 EUR and to an driving license suspension of one month.

The court assumed that the person concerned could have foreseen and prevented the property damage that occurred if he had taken the care required in road traffic, i.e. without touchscreen operation.

touch screen: electronic device or safety control panel?

The person concerned objected to the classification of the touch screen as an electronic device i.S.D. § 23 abs. 1a stvo. The speed controller of the windshield wiper is a "safety-related operating device" and not an electronic device.

The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court (OLG) confirmed the assessment of the municipal court that the touchscreen to an electronic device i.S.D. § 23 para. 1a S. 1 u. 2 stvo deal. The court pointed out that the provision of § 23 abs. 1a stvo with effect to 19.10.was fundamentally changed in 2017.

Now all electronic devices that serve communication, information or organization are covered. So not only mobile or car phones, but also touch screens, portable flat computers, navigation devices, tvs, etc.

Regardless of whether or not electronics are connected to the vehicle

It is irrelevant whether the navigation device is permanently installed in the vehicle or not. The provision does not distinguish between mobile and immobile electronic devices. Therefore, a device that is permanently installed in the vehicle, such as a touchscreen, is also covered by the scope of application.

Purpose of § 23 abs. 1 a stvo

On the meaning and purpose of § 23 abs. 1 a stvo the court stated. He lies:

  • In the accident prevention
  • And should distraction of the driver from the traffic situation, prevent the consequences of looking away from traffic when operating electronic devices.
  • Turning one’s attention to a touchscreen while driving diverts the driver’s attention regardless of whether he or she is entering a course into the navigation device or adjusting the windshield wiper.

The newly worded § 23 abs. 1a stvo was therefore amended in comparison to old version, which only covered mobile and car phones, considerably expanded with regard to the constituent elements of electronic devices.

Use of a touchscreen while driving generally permitted

A motorist is also not disproportionately restricted in the operation of the vehicle as a result of this. Because § 23 abs. 1 nr. 1 a sentence 1 no. 2 sentence 2 stvo does not in itself prohibit the operation of original functions of a motor vehicle by means of touch screens. The use of touchscreens is under the conditions of sentence 1 no. 2 The use of electronic devices, other than hand-held devices, which are permitted under sentence 1 no. 1 of this article, is not permitted. 1 generally prohibited are.

Averting eyes from traffic for touchscreen operation only under narrow conditions

The following applies to the use of permanently installed touchscreens:

  • The use of electronic devices is EITHER VOICE CONTROL PERMITTED
  • Or provided that for the operation and use only one short, adapted to the road, traffic and visibility and weather conditions facing the device simultaneous averting of gaze from traffic is required

The tesla driver had not used voice control and the gaze was neither brief nor adapted to the traffic and weather conditions.

Different touchscreen uses must be treated uniformly in legal terms

The argument put forward by the defense that the speed controller of the windshield wiper, which is built into the touch screen, is not an electronic device that serves the purpose of communication, information, or organization, but rather a safety-related operating part of the vehicle, did not convince the court:

Since the permanently installed touchscreen also includes other functions, such as a navigation device used for information purposes, the touchscreen can be for traffic safety reasons only uniformly considered and individual applications are not excluded from the prohibition standard.

(Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, decision v. 27.3.2020, 1 rb 36 ss 832/19).

More news on this topic:

Background: new regulation of § 23 abs. 1a stvo

The provision of § 23 abs. 1a stvo became with effect from 19.10.fundamentally changed in 2017. In a departure from the previous ban on the use of a "mobile or car phone", the legislator has now decided to standardize, in the form of a requirement, the conditions under which alone the use of an electronic device, which serves or is intended to serve communication, information or organization shall remain permissible. In doing so, it had deliberately gone far beyond the old regulation in § 23 abs. 1a sentence 1 stvo a.F. Outgoing. It is now prohibited to merely hold the device – so-called "hand-held ban"if, in addition ("and"), a function of the device (with the exception of the voice control and the read aloud function) is used or if a not too brief glimpse is given. There should be a.A. any use of the device that does not involve only a brief glancing action shall be prohibited,

overview of prohibitions on the use of cell phones during the journey

Unbelievable what can be done with a cell phone in the car and can be tested in court to determine whether it is prohibited or not:

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