As I was driving the other day and using my phone as a GPS, I thought about how similar it was to texting and driving. You’re looking up and down from your phone, you’re reading text on it, and you don’t have your full attention on the road. What’s so different between the two? Both can easily cause accidents. Is there a differentiation between texting and using your GPS legal-wise? I’ve heard of people getting pulled over for “texting” even though they were using their phones as GPS devices. Is this an extreme stretch of the law?
According to this article, it is not illegal to use your GPS while driving. Different states have different rules about being able to mount your GPS on your windshield. Some states don’t allow the windshield mount at all, but I believe that most states don’t allow you to hold your phone in your hand as a GPS while driving. The GPS must be mounted at least. The NSW states that the phone has be in a commercially designed cradle and mounted. This is so drivers aren’t looking down at their phones but are keeping eye-level with the road.
In at least one state in Australia, using your phone GPS is actually illegal. Even if it has voice turn-by-turn action, if it’s a phone, then it’s not allowed. Australia’s stance is that since the device is ultimately a phone, and you are not supposed to use a phone while driving, then anything being used on that phone is illegal. To get around the law, people mount their phones, which will apparently bypass the police because they usually don’t find it worth it to pull someone over for something mounted that could be an iPod or mp3 player instead of a phone.
I believe that using a phone GPS is equivalent to texting and driving, and I don’t think that mounting a GPS will make it any less dangerous. You’re still reading something else and your mind is preoccupied. But the problem is, how else are we going to find where we’re going when we’re heading someplace that we’re not familiar with? It’s too inconvenient to stop at the side of the road every few turns to look at the map. It seems like there is no good solution for this.