Until January 1, 2009, California was one of only two states (along with New Jersey) to ban the mounting of GPS devices on car windshields. However, in December 2008, the California legislature passed a new bill allowing certain types of GPS to be mounted in certain areas of the windshield. However, there are some important limitations to the new law that drivers need to be aware of if they want to avoid a fine.
Before this law, the California Vehicle Code prohibited drivers from placing anything on the windshield, except for rear view mirrors, toll road transponders and small stickers. This was to ensure that the drivers' view was not obstructed or reduced. This meant that all GPS devices had to be attached either to the dashboard or below the dashboard. Drivers who mounted GPS on their windshields were subject to a fine for obstruction of view.
Purpose of the Law
The author of the bill allowing GPS use on the windshield (State Senator Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach), noted that GPS units come with mounting brackets that allow them to be used on the windshield and many drivers were using these mounting devices illegally. The bill was introduced to allow drivers to use the mounting devices that come with the GPS units and to mount them more safely. The bill also noted that the GPS could be placed in the lower driver's side of the windshield without obstructing the driver's view.
What the Law Allows
The California GPS mounting law allows drivers to mount the GPS in one of two locations on the windshield, depending on the size of the GPS: seven inch square GPS devices may be mounted in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side; and five-inch square GPS may be mounted in the lower corner on the driver's side. The GPS placement must not interfere with the air bag.
The California law does not legalize the most common way to mount the GPS–in the front and center of the windshield. Also, some standard GPS power cords are not long enough to reach from the corner of the windshield to the power source. Passenger-side mounts will be difficult for drivers to see, and mounting GPS in the lower driver's side corner may require the driver to look away from the road to view the screen.
California drivers who mount their GPS in locations other than those allowed still face a fine for obstruction of view. The exact fine varies by county but is approximately $108, including penalties. As before, police have the option of issuing warnings instead of fines.