GPS Criminals. . . ?

Apparently in MN and CA, you can't put a GPS unit on your windshield.

A recent article in the LA Times, Decriminalizing the GPS, discusses a proposed bill allowing for GPS devices in an otherwise ‚Äúdraconian‚Ä? law banning the mounting of all but a few specific items, including the rear view mirror, on the windshield.

This is surprising news since I was offered a GPS for a car I rented in CA just a couple weeks ago! When I sent this out to a few colleagues, there was an immediate rush of questions and counterexamples.

There seems to be some confusion about when a navigation system is legal and when it isn't.
So, we asked one of our experts about the law. Jordan Deckenbach reports that Minnesota Statute 169.71 is the legal authority on this question. It restricts the "suspension" of items off the windshield and makes exceptions only for the following: sun visors, rearview mirrors, state park stickers (as well as other authorized stickers) and electronic toll collection devices (an ITS technology exception!).

Many GPS systems attach to windshields in a manner that would be considered "suspended" under the current MN law: bolting, gluing or suctioning, for example. While attaching a GPS to the windshield does not equate to permanent installment, it would be considered "suspension" of a disallowed item. That being said, GPS units can be mounted on your dashboard providing as much of an obstruction as a windshield mounted GPS unit, yet this method would pass legal muster. Companies have also provided numerous other ways of mounting GPS units in your vehicle to avoid the windshield restriction.

Deckenbach says, ‚Äúthe interesting part about this law is that it was originally a back door approach to making radar detectors illegal. However, there is also a general safety goal of making sure the windshield is free from obstruction.‚Ä?

While some people may think that any permanently attached navigation system is legal, it is certain that any navigation system, attached or not, can be a safety issue, depending on how it is used. For example, looking at a map on an iPhone and following its directions can be highly dangerous, and if the police think you are text messaging or checking emails, it is now cause to be pulled over.

We wonder if making people look down from their windshield in order to look at the GPS unit is actually making anyone safer?

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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs