Jeffrey E. Johnston

Is GPS use while driving against the law?

Evidence has demonstrated that using a smartphone while driving leads to accidents. Georgia’s recent ban on handheld use was enacted in an attempt to reduce these incidents of distracted driving.

However, the new law has left some wondering if they can still use a navigation application on their cellphone for directions.

No exclusions

Some states have imposed laws against cell phone use while driving that exclude cases where the driver is using a GPS application. Georgia’s ban, however, has strict parameters.

The handheld ban here specifically prohibits a driver from physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunications device by using any part of his/her body. That includes placing a phone in your lap and looking down at it for navigation directions.

Hands-free exceptions

But, drivers can make and answer calls, send text messages, select music or use navigation using hands-free options.

This can be done safely by using voice commands and mounting the device to the vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console.

Drivers are permitted to touch the mounted device to adjust their GPS or dial the phone. Touching the phone to do almost any other activity, such as texting or updating social media, is unlawful under the ban.

Emergency exceptions

Holding a GPS to use it is illegal under the handheld-use ban. However, certain situations may allow an exception. For example, handheld GPS use may be acceptable if the driver is dealing with a medical emergency, escaping from a criminal circumstance or reacting to sudden hazardous conditions.

Penalties for breaking the ban

If you are discovered holding your smartphone while driving — even if stopped at a red light — you can be fined up to $150.

Keep your head up

Placing your GPS navigation in the empty seat next to you and looking down at it does not break the handheld-use ban. However, removing your eyes from the road to look over at the device may be more dangerous than holding it.

If you rely on GPS navigation to find your way, choose a safe alternative to hand-held use. Place the phone in a holder that is at your eye-level, so that you can focus back on the road easily.

If you notice a driver near you using their phone, try to distance yourself from the driver. In cases where you’re not able to do this, an accident may occur. When this happens, know who to call. A personal injury attorney can advise whether you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against an at-fault driver following an accident.

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