Positioning of the GPS device and safe driving


Ever increasing numbers of drivers are discovering the benefits of driving with a GPS device! Unfortunately, as with most technology available, there is a right way and a wrong way to use the device. Assistance to drivers is provided not only from the fixed devices but all kinds of applications on a variety of devices in the line of sight which could potentially distract the driver!

A visitor to the Arrive Alive website raised the following request:

“GPS's have become a very reliable and must have device today. However, it amazes me the placement of these devices on the windscreen. I have seen devices placed in front of the driver mid windscreen, on top of the dash in front of the driver and in the field of vision and some other weird and wonderful places.

Could you do an article about the correct and safe placement of these devices?”

Motoring bodies confirm that there has been a lack of education for motorists on how to legally fix the GPS devices on a windscreen. It is not necessarily that drivers are not obeying the law –but more a matter of ignorance of the laws and being unaware of safety concerns about the incorrect placement of the device.

Benefits of the GPS Device for the road user /driver

Before addressing the concerns we would like to provide a brief overview of the benefits of driving with a GPS device for road user/ motorists:

  • The use of a satellite navigation system improves driver behaviour in unknown areas, heightens alertness and reduces stress levels.

  • An international study revealed that the use of a GPS device reduces the number of miles driven by 16 per cent and reduces travel time in an unknown area by 18 per cent. GPS systems assist motorists to in identifying the location of features on, near, or adjacent to the road networks.

  • These include service stations, maintenance and emergency services and supplies, entry and exit ramps, damage to the road system, etc.

  • Motorists are alerted through a constantly updated database of accident blackspots, primary school zones, safety camera locations and other hazardous stretches of road.

  • New developments include research to provide warnings to drivers of potentially critical situations, such as traffic violations or crashes.

  • GPS speed camera detectors help motorists drive within the local speed limits, ensuring safer and worry-free motoring.

  • The use of a navigation system increases driver awareness and reduces stress

  • Before setting out, the motorists adds his destination address on the system's in-dash touchpad, and within seconds, arrows on the moving map and a kindly woman's voice guide you on your way. Most systems even enable you to specify the easiest, quickest or most scenic route.

  • Motorists also receive information on the current speed, average speed, maximum speed reached an estimated time to reach the destination.

  • Real-time traffic information is available and not dependent on road or weather conditions

Safety Concerns on GPS placement

Safety Concerns on GPS placement

Road Safety authorities have raised concerns about the incorrect placement of the GPS device.

"There is little doubt that poor placement of a GPS device can, and has, led to crashes in Queensland," Spokesman of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, Paul Turner said.

"If they are put in the wrong place, it can certainly lead to crashes and serious injury or death.”

The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland has pleaded with the Queensland government to stop drivers from putting GPS units in their field of vision. Concerns have been raised that many drivers are restricting their fields of vision and if you have a child on a bicycle at about bonnet line, the driver can't see in front of the bonnet.

Safety concerns are not only on the view or line of sight that may be obstructed. The incorrect placement and improper usage may also result in the driver fiddling with the device while driving leading to further driver distraction and resulting in road crashes.

Requirements not the same worldwide

It is important to recognize that the laws are not the same in every country or state. What applies in your country might not be legal when driving in another country. It is the duty of the driver to ensure that he knows the rules of the road of the country in which he is driving!


In 2011 Queensland police fined 84 motorists for driving without a clear view in all directions, which carries a $233 penalty. Police could however not say if any fines were for poorly placed GPS units.

USA: California

In some states in the U.S.A, it is illegal to attach a device to the windshield whilst in some other states there are no laws prohibiting the driver from doing so. We also find in some states rather specific legislation prescribing what the legal positioning should be!

In California there is such specific legislation:

California Department of Motor Vehicles

V C Section 26708 Material Obstructing or Reducing Driver x2019 s View

Material Obstructing or Reducing Driver’s View

26708.  (a) (1) A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied upon the windshield or side or rear windows.

(2) A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied in or upon the vehicle that obstructs or reduces the driver’s clear view through the windshield or side windows.

(3) This subdivision applies to a person driving a motor vehicle with the driver’s clear vision through the windshield, or side or rear windows, obstructed by snow or ice.

(b) This section does not apply to any of the following:


(12) A portable Global Positioning System (GPS), which may be mounted in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver and outside of an airbag deployment zone, if the system is used only for door-to-door navigation while the motor vehicle is being operated.


South African Law: The National Road Traffic Act

South African Law: The National Road Traffic Act:

Apart from the legislation around visibility and visual display units in Regulations 204 & 308B, there are no specific stipulations pertaining to the display of devices on the windshield.

Driving view to be unobstructed

Reg 204. (1) No person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle-

(a)    which is not so constructed and maintained as to afford the driver thereof a full and clear view of the roadway ahead and to his or her right and left when the vehicle is in use;…

Prohibition on use of television receivers and visual display units in motor vehicles

Reg 308B. (1) No person may operate on a public road a motor vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operated while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked if any part or portion of the image on the screen:-

(a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position; or

(b) is likely to distract the driver or other road users;

(2) The provisions of sub-regulation (1) do not apply to the driver if:

(a) driving a bus and the visual display unit is, or displays, a destination sign or other bus sign;

(b) the visual display unit is or is part of, a driver's navigational or intelligent driving aid; or

(c) driving a double deck bus having a TV monitor.

What do the Experts in GPS navigation advise about the placement of the GPS device?

TomTom has always been committed to making driving safer. On the TomTom website we find the following advice:

“A TomTom device should be placed on your windshield in a position that does not block your view of the road in any way. At the same time, you should be able to optimally use your device.

We advise that you mount your TomTom device as low as possible on your windshield. Your TomTom device should not be placed directly under your rear-view mirror.

With the Alternative Mount Kit accessory, it is possible to mount your TomTom device in other positions, for example, attached to your dashboard or ventilator.

Some athermic heat-reflecting windscreens and built-in windshield heaters block GPS signal reception. The TomTom External Antenna accessory ensures optimal GPS reception, and can be placed either inside or outside your car.”

Most safety experts also advise against the placement of the device right in front of their eye line under their rear vision mirror. They advise placing the device either as low as possible on the windscreen or in the corner of the windshield between the driver and the driver side window.


When using and attaching the GPS Device to the windshield ask the following questions:

Is it Legal?

This is the most important question. If it is not legal to attach the GPS device to the windshield when driving in a specific area you simply cannot do it! Enquire what the law stipulates and obey the law!

If you may not attach the device to the windshield consider using a dashboard mount.

Is it Safe?

Once established what the law stipulates you need to ask whether it is safe to attach and position the device. This will include asking whether you have clear visibility and whether the device will in any way impede with your view to the road and other road users. Keeping your eyes on the road is essential to safe driving. Using a windshield mount that keeps your GPS unit visible--but just below your line of sight for driving is the best advice.

It is best to pre-set a destination on the GPS before the vehicle starts moving. In some cases, however, adjustments to the GPS may need to be made while driving. In these situations, make sure that the GPS is mounted within easy access range and in a place where the road is still visible. Making changes to a GPS while driving takes more attention away from the road than simply referring to the unit for turn-by-turn directions. Always consider rather stopping at a safe place to perform changes or ask a passenger to add the new destination or make the changes to the device on your behalf.

Is it effective?

If legal and the attachment can be performed with safety in mind you also need to consider whether it would be effective and reliable. Will your GPS be able to find a signal and will you be able to find the information without major head and body movement from behind the steering wheel?

GPS units require position triangulation via satellites and placing the GPS unit on the dashboard, low on the windshield, or an amount that raises the unit high enough to have an unobstructed view of the windshield will help with GPS reliability.

Also view:

GPS Navigation and Road Safety

GPS Technology and Purchasing a GPS Device

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