No More Texting, But What About Mapping While Driving?

Apr 9, 2012

Beginning this summer, texting will be illegal for drivers across all three Northwest states. Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a bill last week that outlaws texting while driving on Idaho roads. But in the age of the smartphone, text messages aren’t the only distraction on the tiny screen.

If you can’t text then all three states say it’s pretty clear that means you can’t send email in traffic either, or, for that matter, surf the web.  And there are already laws on the books that ban watching TV while driving, so that means YouTube is out. 

But what about using the map on your smartphone? It turns out, that may or may not be legal. It depends on which state you’re in. In Washington ...

“I would not stop them just because they’re using their phone to navigate around with a map program,” says Guy Gill, a trooper with the Washington State Patrol.

He adds, however, that mapping may cause other behavior that will get the driver pulled over:

“Drifting out of their lane, maybe onto the center line, maybe onto the shoulder.”

Meanwhile, state police in Idaho and Oregon interpret their states’ ban on texting to mean no mapping.

There is one more function we haven’t covered: using your phone as a phone. That remains legal in Idaho even under the new law that takes effect July 1. In the rest of the Northwest, you need a hands-free device.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network