A Road Warrior reader asked the other day if it is legal to use your cellphone’s GPS system while driving.

The answer from CHP Officer Jon Sloat, spokesman for the Sonoma County office, is yes, it is legal, because the law regarding cellphone use only specifies holding it to talk or to text.

However, Sloat noted, you could still get a ticket if the officer believes that while you’re fiddling with your GPS that you’re driving at a speed that’s unsafe under the conditions.

“If you can’t drive safely while using a GPS, you’re weaving or all over the road, then your safe speed is zero,” he said.

“It’s not safe, but it’s not illegal,” Sloat said.


If you have a question for the Road Warrior, please send it to jim.fremgen@pressdemocrat.com.

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  1. Robert

    90+% of fatal accidents are caused by the three D’s

    1) Distracted Driving – Driving off the road changing a CD or radio station

    2) Drowsy Driving – Professional Drivers take 15 minute power naps

    3) Drunk Driving – Just call a friend or taxi

    July 9th, 2011 7:47 am

  2. Chris Johnson

    Why can’t there be a number to report these idiots that don’t abide by the law just like there is to report drunk drivers. It is the same thing, people still drive with their cell phone glued to their ear and cut people off all the time. Pay attention people and I wish a huge fine on you.

    July 9th, 2011 8:02 am

  3. kww

    please explain how looking down on a small screen (such as a cell phone GPS) is legal but texting is not. pull over if you need directions.

    July 9th, 2011 8:33 am

  4. Juandering

    Last week in traffic court a GPS user was given a ticket for using a GPS and fined. According to the judge, just holding a handheld device was enough to warrant a ticket. As he pointed out, you could always pull to the side of the road and consult the device and then resume driving. Yesterday a man was fined for holding his phone while using his bluetooth. It’s hands off all hand held devices. Excepting Police officers.

    July 9th, 2011 9:07 am

  5. Capttan Kona

    Don’t take your power nap in Petaluma, it is against the law.

    July 9th, 2011 9:18 am

  6. Capttan Kona

    Chris Johnson, you can call the cops on your cell phone and report them, LOL.

    July 9th, 2011 9:20 am

  7. Capttan Kona

    kww, the only thing you do with a GPS is look at it. You do not use the keys to text and you do not talk to it in a conversation. Now you know. And, would you have someone using a GPS in their car pullover? Why don’t we just make driving illegal?

    July 9th, 2011 9:22 am

  8. Capttan Kona

    Hey Robert, I think you are wrong. Distracted driving is the number one cause of traffic accidents, but I can not find any verifiable data on your claim of fatalities. So, prove it or stop pushing propaganda like a good little progressive.

    July 9th, 2011 9:25 am

  9. Capttan Kona

    Well Robert, I have done further review and your numbers appear to be FALSE.

    July 9th, 2011 9:32 am

  10. Jack

    The cop definitely recommended pulling over/being safe about using the GPS. But he can’t say its illegal because it quite simply is not. I did not get the feeling from his statement though that he wants us using cell phone GPSes while driivng.

    July 9th, 2011 9:36 am

  11. Darrin

    So, I’m sorry, what is the real difference between a GPS on a cellphone on the seat next to you and a GPS unit? Sigh–next up, no singing while driving.

    July 9th, 2011 10:34 am

  12. Santa

    Look at a Cell Phone go to Jail, it’s just that simple.

    July 9th, 2011 11:45 am

  13. paul

    you are supposed to know were you are going brfore you go. If you don’t know where you are going, pull over out of traffic. Assuming that all the people around you support your belief that it is your right to drive like an imbecile because you got in a car and started driving without a clue, is imbecilic and it is also against the law. Since driving a veicle is using a deadly device, 2nd offenses should be 2nd strike offenses.

    July 9th, 2011 3:27 pm

  14. Not As Smart

    Paul, God made imbeciles and California DMV allows them to drive. Who are you going to blame God or the system. Stupid people are going to do stupid things, it’s the way of the world we live in. Here’s a solution…we’ll pass a “Not As Smart As Paul” law…if you’re not as smart as Paul you don’t get the privilege to drive a car.

    July 10th, 2011 10:46 am

  15. Mike

    Yet is okay for the worst drivers in the world (local police) to endanger everyone on the road with thier speeding, lack of turn signals, ignoring stop signs, driving while on thier cell phones, multiple lane changes with no signals, etc., etc. Follow a local cop for one mile, and see if you can’t identify AT LEAST 10 moving violations.

    July 11th, 2011 8:38 am

  16. Drew

    And so it behooves us citizens to have this conversation about the police following the law whie driving just like regular folks are required to do. This week alone I spotted a sheriff deputy on his personal cell phone while driving on the bicentennial ramp in Santa Rosa yelling at his wife/girlfriend…ahem yes sir that was not the department issued phone. Then the CHP from hell mearly creamed me going over Crane Canyon coming down the mountain towards Rohnert Park, from behind me totally hell bent – no lights – and yep she was also talking on HER personal cell phone while carreeening down the mountainside.

    July 11th, 2011 1:37 pm

  17. Chris Johnson

    How come the police are allowed to use their cell phones??? They do it all the time. Are they exempt from the law??

    July 11th, 2011 3:48 pm

  18. Road.Warrior

    Yes, police officers and other emergency service professionals are exempt from the cellphone law as long as their calls are “in the course and scope of his or her duties.” See California Vehicle Code Section 23123 for more.

    July 11th, 2011 4:01 pm

  19. Linda

    What is the California Cell Phone law regarding listening to the audible directions of a GPS System on a cell phone?

    Can you be cited for picking up the cell phone to show the officer that there are driving directions on the phone to demonstrate that you are not talking to someone or texting while driving?

    July 13th, 2011 2:24 pm

  20. Scott

    Using a cell phone GPS is not a violation of 23123.5. Subsection (b) states you have to be communicating with a “person”. GPS is not a person.

    November 7th, 2011 8:29 pm

  21. bunnie

    My daughter has job and works hard to make little. She now has a ticket and a strike on her allready too powerful insurance ( did u know they raise the price due to no or bad credit..) anyway she was at a stop light and spoke into her cell gps and got a ticket big ticket for it. Maybe we should not look down, drink soda, pick our nose. or sing…..just saying… its rediculous for young people to live.

    June 13th, 2012 7:13 pm

  22. Ron

    Just got one for glancing down at my cell phone GPS. I reached down to make sure it was the right exit (the directions I had were long), and literally had the phone in my hand for 3 seconds. Put the phone down immediately and started changing lanes to exit. Cop pulled me over and said I was ‘messing with my cell phone’ while I said ‘I just looked down to make sure I was exiting on the correct street’. He gave the ticket quickly while I was still telling him I wasn’t talking or typing on the phone whatsoever, and he just said that I shouldn’t be doing anything distracting at all. I told him, it was the equivalent OR LESS than my changing the station on my radio, checking my blind spot on a lane change, or lowering my windows to a specific height I wanted and looking. We went back a forth for a bit and in the end he just said ‘don’t take it personally, I think you’re a good guy so don’t let it ruin your day,’ and left. I knew that he knew he made a mistake as he went from fairly condescending to pretty nice about things.

    I don’t hate the cop or cops in general. It’s the system that is broken. It is A SYSTEM OF THIEVERY, and we as citizens are allowing it. The cops are just the tools of the thievery.

    July 9th, 2012 10:04 am

  23. Josh

    This is no longer true. California courts ruled that it is illegal to manually operate ANY electronic device while in a car, for virtually any reason. With a few exceptions, such as touching a hands-free device to accept a call.

    So now, you cannot touch a GPS, but you may fiddle with a paper map.

    April 9th, 2013 1:09 pm

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