Norway’s Supreme Court: It’s illegal for drivers to look at their cellphones while stopping at a red light

Norwegian Supreme CourtPhoto: Gorm Kallestad / NTB
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Using a cellphone at a red light and in a stationary traffic queue is considered using your cellphone “while driving,” the Supreme Court concluded on Friday.

The decision was made after two drivers were fined for using mobile phones their cars were stationary in traffic.

A man in his 40s checked his watch on his mobile phone while the car was stationary, with the engine switched off at a red light in Oslo in September 2019. 

He was fined for that. 

In Oslo District Court, he was sentenced to pay a fine of NOK 2,000.

In a similar case, a woman in her early 20s was fined for using her mobile phone in a stationary traffic jam in Drammen. 

The traffic queue caused the car’s engine to turn off automatically. As the queue began to move, she put away her cell phone.

Supreme Court divided

In the Court of Appeal, the defendants were acquitted of violating the ban on the use of handheld mobile phones while driving.

However, by three to two votes, the Supreme Court ruled in dissent that the use of the mobile phone in both cases had taken place “while driving” and thus entailed violations of the prohibition.

The majority assumed that the use of a mobile phone during a short-term traffic stop, where the car was still an active part of the traffic, is covered by the wording of the prohibition that the driver “must not use a mobile phone while driving.”

Unclear provision

The minority in the court assumed that the regulatory provision was unclear and therefore did not provide a sufficiently clear legal basis for criminal liability.

The decision from the Supreme Court clarifies the scope of the ban on using a handheld mobile phone while driving.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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