Does California Law Prohibit Using a GPS While Driving?

California’s distracted driving law permits using a GPS, but there are limits.

In the past, California law prohibited talking on a cellphone and text messaging while driving but didn’t restrict motorists from using a GPS. However, a new distracted driving law that covers GPS took effect in January 2017. Here’s what the new law says about operating a GPS while behind the wheel.

Voice-Operated, Hands-Free Systems

California’s distracted driving law now prohibits driving while “holding or operating” a wireless communication device. But voice-operated, hands-free devices are exempt from the law. So, if you can operate your GPS without using your hands, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Activating or Deactivating a GPS

The new legislation also contains an exception for turning on or off a GPS device: Using your hand to activate or deactivate your GPS isn’t illegal as long as it takes only one tap or swipe to do so and the GPS is mounted on the dash or in the center console.

Manufacturer-Installed Systems That are Embedded

California’s restriction on using a wireless device doesn’t apply to “manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle.” Presumably, this exception covers all embedded systems, including GPS.

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