Long car rides can be boring, even for the driver, so are you allowed to indulge in some visual entertainment while driving?
There’s a TV next to your steering wheel, which must mean you’re allowed to watch TV while driving, right?
Can you watch TV while driving? Why are there TVs in cars? What should you avoid doing while driving?
Fasten your seat belts and check your rearview mirrors. Let’s learn what traffic laws have to say about you watching TV while behind the driver’s seat.
Can I Watch TV While Driving?
Regions have different laws regarding watching TV while driving.
Traffic laws differ from country to country and state to state.
If you don’t see your country or state listed below, please check the local regulations on watching TV while driving.
All of the laws listed below are subject to change, so be sure to check for any updates to the local regulations regularly.
Let’s get started!
Currently, the UK prohibits drivers from watching TV while driving. This also includes watching TV on your phone or tablet.
However, the UK is modifying its laws to accommodate self-driving cars. This new legislation would allow drivers in cars switched to “self-driving” mode to watch videos on their car’s built-in TVs.
Note that watching the same videos on your phone or tablet would still be illegal.
The drivers will be trusted to pay attention to the road and be prepared to take action when necessary, like when turning, changing lanes, or avoiding accidents.
These new laws are still controversial since drivers could easily become distracted by the content on-screen, making them more prone to accidents and putting other drivers at risk.
It also raises questions about why looking at your phone or tablet will remain illegal when they’re, possibly, just as distracting as a television.
One argument is that TVs within self-driving cars display messages to the driver, alerting them of incoming vehicles. However, considering how quickly car accidents can happen, the technology may not be able to alert the driver in time.
Most notably, drivers will not be held accountable for any accidents their negligence may cause. This may encourage careless drivers to not pay attention, as they know the law won’t punish them should someone end up injured.
To learn more about these new laws in the UK, watch the Sky News report below.
In California, it is illegal for drivers to watch TV at any point while driving the car.
If the car has a TV, it must be installed behind the driver’s seat.
Alternatively, the screen must be fashioned in a way so the driver cannot see it, like pointed at the passenger seat or covered in a film that allows the screen to only be seen from face-on.
If a TV is visible to the driver, it must only show information relevant to the driver, like directions.
In Texas, any built-in TVs playing content during the duration of the ride must be installed behind the driver. Alternatively, they can be installed on the dashboard in a way that only makes the screen visible to the passenger.
Drivers are allowed to watch TV if the car is parked or fully stopped with the vehicle’s parking brake engaged.
So, it’s best to only watch TV when parked in a safe location. You should not watch TV while sitting in traffic, even if your car is stopped.
You can, however, use your GPS or look at your car’s screen displaying any relevant information to driving.
Why Do Cars Have Built-In TVs?
Cars have built-in TVs to amuse the passengers.
So, if you can’t watch TV while driving, then what’s the point of having a built-in TV in your car?
Built-in TVs are meant to occupy the passengers, specifically the little ones.
Not only will this keep your children and other passengers entertained, but it will also keep them calm and make them less likely to distract you while driving.
Some children can find cars, car seats, and seatbelts overstimulating. This can quickly lead to tantrums and meltdowns, making car rides difficult for both the child and parents.
Screen time can offer a much-needed distraction for distressed children, allowing the parent to drive safely.
Alternatively, many luxury cars have built-in screens to offer high-paying customers a swanky experience.
If there’s one reason why cars do not have built-in TVs, it’s to entertain the drivers. So, keep your eyes on the road and wait until you pull into a rest stop before catching up on your favorite shows.
What Should You Not Do as a Driver?
There are many things you should not do as a driver.
In addition to watching TV, there are a few other things you should avoid doing as a driver.
Let’s learn what you should not do when driving to ensure you and your passengers make it to your final destination safely.
You may be a book worm, but you should wait to finish that last chapter until you arrive at your destination.
Reading books, eBooks, or Kindles while driving is illegal because the reading device blocks your vision and takes most of your attention.
Darting your eyes back and forth between the road and page may seem doable, but it’s risky business.
Instead, consider playing an audiobook or having your passenger read to you.
Use Your Phone or Tablet
Using your phone or tablet while driving is illegal.
This includes texting, scrolling through your Instagram feed, and checking your email.
Don’t pull out your phone at a stoplight, either. You could receive a “red light ticket” for being distracted while temporarily stopped.
You should also ask passengers not to distract you by showing you their phones, even for a moment.
We understand that the internet is fast-paced and exciting, but traffic is faster and a few seconds can make the difference between life and death.
If you use your phone for work, try setting your phone to Driving Mode, which will silence any notifications and automatically send an “I’m driving” text to anyone that tries to reach you.
Drive Under the Influence
This should be a given, but driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance is utterly dangerous and illegal.
So, plan ahead if you’re going to be drinking, and don’t hesitate to call an Uber instead of driving.
Talk on the Phone
Though not illegal, talking on the phone while driving can be very distracting and increase the rate of crashing.
This includes talking on the phone over speakerphone or through a Bluetooth headset.
Talking on the phone engages your attention, diverting you from the road ahead.
So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to call your loved one/colleague back once you’re parked.
Put Makeup On
Although there aren’t any laws against this, it is incredibly dangerous.
While applying lipstick your eyes are off the road and instead focused on your reflection in your car’s sun visor.
Should you get in an accident or run a red light, you could be charged with a “careless driving ticket” and fined.
So, if you’re ever running late and are tempted to put on some mascara and lipgloss on your way to work, think again.
Wrapping Things Up
Driving is a necessary part of life, but it doesn’t come without risks.
Remember, you cannot watch TV while driving.
The only exception may be for UK residents in self-driving cars, though the law hasn’t been officially passed.
You should also not read, use your phone, or be under the influence while driving. We also strongly recommend avoiding talking on the phone and putting makeup on when you’re behind the wheel.
So, put on your seatbelt, check your surroundings, and be safe.
Did you know that it’s illegal to watch TV while driving? How do you ensure you stay safe while driving?
Let us know in the comments below!
Yesenia Achlim is a technical copywriter and editor with a focus on AV equipment. She aims to break down complicated topics and make technology accessible, no matter your technical expertise. When she’s not teaching you how to replace a projector lamp, you can find her reading and baking.