Using a hand-held GPS device while driving

by William Mattar | June 29th, 2017

Are you allowed to use a hand-held GPS device while driving?

Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d generally provides that no person shall operate a motor vehicle while using  any “portable electronic device” while such vehicle is in motion. The term “portable electronic device” is broadly defined to encompass ‘any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device, or any other electronic device when used to input, write, send, receive, or read text for present or future communication.’

Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d(2)(a).


The Third Department, Appellate Division recently held that Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d does prohibit use of a hand-held GPS device while driving. Probing the “pertinent legislative history,” a unanimous Third Department panel noted as follows:

. . .  a hand-held GPS device meets the statutory definition of a “portable electronic device” inasmuch as it is a “hand-held device with mobile data access” (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d [2] [a]). In our view, it is mobile and receives data to calculate a driver’s geographical location and to communicate directions. Moreover, a review of the pertinent legislative history regarding Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d demonstrates that the Legislature intended Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d (2) (a) to encompass any portable electronic device that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road and prevents the full use of a driver’s hands.

Matter of Clark v. New York State D.M.V., 2017 NY Slip Op 05133 (3d Dep’t 2017).



But what does it mean to “use” a hand-held GPS device?

The Statute defines “Using” to mean

holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or, for the purpose of present or future communication: performing a command or request to access a world wide web page, composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, instant messages, or other electronic data.

Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d(2)(b).


Because the hand-held GPS device user was “view[ing] the GPS navigation system to read directions,” the Third Department determined that he was indeed using the portable electronic device. See Matter of Clark, 2017 NY Slip Op 05133.


At William Mattar, we offer a free case evaluation if you or someone you know was injured in a car accident. For your free case evaluation, contact one of our Syracuse car accident lawyers.