You can spot GPS navigation devices in a pretty high percentage of the vehicles around you on the roads. Just take a look at the windshields of cars stopped at an intersection, and chances are you will see a few suctioned to the bottom center or corners of them. But have you ever wondered if that setup is safe for drivers, or even legal?
There are federal regulations restricting what sizes and kinds of objects you are allowed to put on your windshield. These rules keep drivers from blocking their own lines of sight with large stickers and bulky rear-view mirror decorations. GPS navigators can obviously create the same sight blocking problem these rules are designed to avoid, and they carry an added distraction—they have moving images that you are actually supposed to pay attention to.
The rules about GPS navigation devices state that they must be smaller than five by five inches if they are located on the driver’s side corner of the windshield (seven by seven inches if they are on the passenger’s side). They may not legally be placed anywhere else on the windshield, including the center. Would you get pulled over for having a navigator in the wrong spot? Probably not. But you could be cited for it if an officer notices it during a stop for a different reason, and remember that there is a deeper purpose behind these laws—driver safety!
Among the many gauges, meters, and indicators that fill the dashboards of new cars, GPS systems are probably the most distracting. If you can remember back to the first time you used one, you may well recall how easy it is to get caught up in programming one or questioning its directions while driving. Ideally, the audible voice gives us the liberty to follow directions without even looking at the unit, but it often doesn’t work that way.
Mounting a GPS navigation system on the dashboard, below the windshield, at least removes the danger of blocking a significant portion of your view that could prevent you from seeing a pedestrian or bicyclist. And if you can put it close to the indicators you’re already used to glancing at, like the speedometer, you can minimize the distance your eyes have to travel when you check on it.