Using Your Phone As A GPS Is Awesome Until You Get A Distracted Driving Ticket

Smartphone GPS apps are extremely useful tools for people who want real-time traffic information and/or you don’t want to drag around a separate GPS unit. Yet motorists should be careful: even if they’re just choosing a different route or reporting a construction zone, they can get in serious trouble for simply holding a phone in their hands.

We all know that texting and e-mailing while driving are terrible ideas, but taking selfies and video selfies while driving are even worse ideas. Yet the phone features that aim to let us engage with our phones without typing or looking down aren’t police-proof. That’s because a cop who glimpses you fiddling with your phone doesn’t know whether you’re changing your destination in a map app or sending a long, detailed text message. Holding your phone while you shout instructions to it or have a virtual assistant transcribe your text? That’s also not always okay unless you don’t even have a hand on the phone.

According to an attorney specializing in traffic violations who our colleagues over at Consumer Reports consulted, here in New York state, location of Consumerist’s global headquarters, you can get in trouble just for not having both hands on the wheel if there’s a phone next to you. Even if they aren’t being that strict, holding your phone is enough to get a fine and points on your license. Even if you aren’t looking at it or talking into it.

Even using a standalone GPS won’t keep you out of trouble. There are 28 states where it’s actually illegal to mount your GPS (or phone) on your windshield. Mounting either to the dashboard is an alternate option, but one that doesn’t keep the device in your line of sight.

When driving with GPS is against the law [Consumer Reports]