Waze, a navigation app for phones, helps road users avoid congestion - and avoid contributing to it - by providing alternate routes for traffic to follow. It also allows users to log accidents, road works, police stops and other potential road stops by tapping on the screen.
The app, owned by Silicon Valley giant Google, is much the same as any maps software with live traffic data (which is also built into many modern vehicles), but Western Australia Police Minister Michelle Roberts told Nine News that while the app is legal, users could be breaking the law when using it.
"If you're entering any information, if you're touching the screen for example, then you are breaking the law," Roberts said.
"How would you feel if you hit a pedestrian, or a kid on a bike, because you were distracted because you were using an app like this.
"Using it to avoid police is just stupid, it's putting your life at risk, but more importantly it's putting other road user's lives at risk."
Though the use of a phone is illegal in most circumstances, GPS apps can be used if the phone is in a secure cradle. According to Western Australian law:
“It is an offence to create, send or look at a text message, video message, email or similar
communication while driving. The GPS function of a mobile phone may be used by a driver only if the phone is secured in a mounting and the driver does not touch the phone at any time (www.ors.wa.gov.au).”
This rules out touching the screen to input the location of a car accident that might bring a freeway to a halt, or if police have setup a road stop. However, Waze is now available on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connected vehicles, which means the software is integrated into the car’s touchscreen system. It is not illegal to use those functions of a vehicle. With the Waze app on a connected infotainment system, users are able to input accidents, speed camera locations and police presence, among many other hazards and stops.
It is also not illegal to use the app without touching the screen when driving, and it will still find alternate routes and alert drivers to the location of speed cameras and hazard.
One user of the app told Nine that because of the app he hadn’t had a speeding fine for five years, though it was much more than just an alert for where the police are.
"It's not just about avoiding speeding fines for me, it's also understanding what's happening on the roads," he said.