Is It Illegal To Use Tesla Screen While Driving?

Tesla cars represent the current pinnacle of automotive technology. Environmentally friendly whilst still being powerfully high performance, these vehicles are also packed full of the latest and greatest on-board tech that’s constantly updated, even for existing cars. Tesla’s tech is accessed via a built-in computer touchscreen, which is actually a common feature on most modern vehicles, but Elon Musk’s creations require the use of these touchable devices to do many of the cool things they’re capable of. So, are you allowed to use these screens while driving, or would interacting with your Tesla’s touchscreen be considered illegal in the same way using a smartphone would be? Let’s find out.

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Driver using the touchscreen display in a Tesla car

What Happens To The Tesla Touchscreen While Driving?

When a Tesla vehicle is in gear, whether it’s stationary or on the move, the majority of the touchscreen features that would cause major distractions are disabled. The web browser and any games are blocked and the only things on the screen are essential controls and readings.

Climate control, windscreen wiper speed, satellite navigation… It’s on the screen, but the layout and design of the screen was so thoughtfully developed that it minimises the need for the driver to look away from the screen or even take their hand off the wheel. Buttons are large and choices can be made with one single, responsive tap.

Better still, even some of those essential buttons, like the windscreen wiper options and headlight settings, won’t need driver interaction. This is because clever Teslas have automatic sensors that will adjust wiper speed and light strength based on the environment. Light drizzle turns into a sudden downpour? Your wipers will kick it up a gear on their own. Drive into a dark tunnel? The vehicle will turn on its own headlights.

Is It Illegal To Use The Tesla Screen While Driving?

No, there are no laws prohibiting the specific act of tapping the Tesla’s touchscreen to do things like adjust your air con or change the radio station. This is because those controls are thought of more like traditional buttons. If you’re driving a 20 year old car with old-school knobs that need turning, you’re not going to get pulled over for twisting them, so a Tesla’s screen is no different.

This is also down to the very particular wording of the law. Current UK legislation states that it’s illegal to “hold” a device, like a phone or satnav. Obviously, you’re not going to be holding your Tesla’s screen in your hand, so by the letter of the law, you’re okay there.

However, you can be charged if you’re deemed to be driving without due care and attention, and this can apply to everything from dancing to the music on the radio, eating or drinking, or even using electronic devices while in control of a vehicle. That would include the Tesla’s screen. The tech might be cool, but don’t allow it to distract you.

Can You Watch Videos On The Tesla Screen While Driving?

Because this would be an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do, which would almost certainly warrant a careless driving charge, Tesla has designed their software to block these kinds of features while the car is in gear. So no, unless you’re prepared and able to do some warranty-voiding software updates of your own, this is not possible.

What Happens If You’re Found To Be Using The Tesla Screen Behind The Wheel?

If the police pull up alongside you and spot that you’re using the screen for simple things like climate control or adjusting your windscreen wipers, then there isn’t really anything that they can do. However, if you’re judged to be doing something that is distracting you from the road, like messing around with the controls for longer than necessary, then this could go against you.

You will likely be charged with driving without due care and attention or even dangerous driving, both of which carry significant fines, points on your licence and potentially even jail time.

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