GPS Devices and “Texting while Driving” Laws

GPS Devices and “Texting while Driving” Laws

Text messaging is banned in 28 states, Washington, DC, and Guam for all drivers. In 24 of those states, texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning that officers can stop a person for texting while driving even if they’re not violating any other laws. In the other 4 states, officers can charge a person with texting while driving only after pulling them over for another offense.

Another 9 states prohibit texting while driving by beginning drivers and 2 states prohibit school bus drivers from testing while driving.

The 28 states where texting while driving is a primary offense are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

The 9 states restricting beginning drivers from texting while driving include Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and  West Virginia. Oklahoma and Texas also explicitly  forbid school bus drivers from texting while driving.

So, what about using a GPS system while driving?

The laws are new enough that there isn’t much in the way of legal precedent, but the general consensus among law enforcement officers is that if the GPS device is in a cradle attached to the dash, it’s allowed, but if you’re holding it in your hand to use it, you can be busted under the texting while driving ban. Just a little something to think about behind the wheel.

In the state of Texas alone, in a five year period, more than 1,700 crashes were caused by drivers using their cell phones – whether talking or texting. The American Automobile Association (AAA) would like to ban texting while driving nationwide by the end of 2012.

Law enforcement officers consider holding a handheld device and operating it with your hands or thumbs to be equivalent to texting while driving, whether you’re using your handheld GPS, doing something on your iPhone, or sending a text message on a standard cell phone. They consider the use of a GPS device that is affixed to the dashboard not to constitute texting while driving.

But why test the limits? Officers say it’s fine to pull over to use your handheld device as long as you’re not in an area where you’re not allowed to pull off onto the shoulder. The consequences of missing a turn are typically very small in comparison to the risk of hurting or killing someone

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2 Responses to “GPS Devices and “Texting while Driving” Laws”

  1. James Goodman
    August 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.
    *** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***

  2. Jon Fox
    October 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Just another of the many examples of why states should not be allowed to make their own laws.

    ONE country should have only ONE set of laws for ALL citizens.

    Why should a US Citizen be denied to enjoy the rights another US Citizen enjoys, just because he lives on a particular side of a state line?

    Ban ALL state and local laws, not just THIS one!

    It is ABSURD that driver’s licenses are issued by STATES, when a driver is not expected to only drive in one state. So issuing driver’s licenses should be the job of the FEDERAL government.

    Can you imagine the horrors of allowing state governments to issue radio licenses and make laws regarding radio instead of the FCC?

    The fact that just one state in the country has the ability to ban radar detectors and turn a U.S. Citizen into a CRIMINAL for doing what is perfectly legal everywhere else in the country, shows why no state should be allowed to have such power.

    All citizens of a country should have the SAME RIGHTS and not be discriminated against based on the geographical location of their home within the country!

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