Using iPhone Satnav Apps While Driving Is Actually Illegal

Using iPhone Satnav Apps While Driving Is Actually Illegal
tomtom-iphone-appI hope you didn’t drop a whole heap of coin on a proper satnav application for your iPhone – turns out that in Australia, using your smartphone as a GPS navigation device is illegal.

According to Traffic Services Commander of the NSW Police, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley:

Under Rule 300 of the Australian Road Rules, which prohibits the use of a hand held device while driving, if the unit is a mobile phone then any function connected to the phone would be classified as use and this includes GPS.

Rule 299, of the Australian Road Rules permits a GPS but not one connected to a mobile phone. A smart phone is still a mobile phone regardless of what else it may be capable of.

That means that even if you buy TomTom’s iPhone bracket and stick your iPhone in it to use the device as a satnav, because the iPhone’s still a phone, using it is against the law. The same rule goes for any Nokia device offering turn-by-turn navigation, any Telstra phone with WhereIs… If your satnav has a SIM card or mobile phone capability, then you run the risk of being fined.

Chatting with a police officer friend of mine about this, she said that in reality, if your iPhone is window mounted and you use it that way, most police officers “aren’t really going to be able to tell whether it is a mobile phone, or a Navman, or iPod or whatever and most would not bother pulling you over for that”.

Still, if you do get pulled over, in NSW you’re looking at a $253 fine and three demerit points, unless you get caught in a school zone during school zone operating hours, at which point it’s $338 and four demerit points. The penalty in other states might be different, but the law is the same across the country.

This whole situation raises a whole heap of questions about both the availability of these apps on iTunes, as well as companies like Nokia marketing their Navigator lineup of handsets. After all – how can a company sell a phone designed to be used illegally, regardless of how archaic the law is?

Stay tuned for more on this…