California Judge Bans Map Apps While Driving
April 8, 2013

California Says No To Smartphone Maps While Driving

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

It´s easy to understand why many cities and states want to ban texting while driving. Having your thumbs and eyes on a tiny screen (or not so tiny, if you´re using a Samsung device) can be a major distraction from the road. Yet there are other apps available to smartphones which are incredibly useful while on the road, such as GPS or mapping apps.

Now, one court in California has ruled that even drivers using their smartphones to navigate through traffic can be pulled over and ticketed. More specifically, the ruling speaks against having your hands on the device, saying: “The distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails.”

According to Cnet, the trouble began when a California driver was issued a citation under Section 23123 of the state´s Vehicle Code.

Section 23123 prohibits driving a vehicle “while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving."

The driver appealed the citation, saying they were only using the cell phone as a GPS at the time they were issued the ticket.

In his ruling, Judge W. Kent Hamilton writes that the “primary evil” the law is meant to prohibit is physically taking a driver´s hands from the wheel and onto the phone.

“That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock, or a device for sending and receiving text messages and e-mails,” writes Hamilton in his ruling, according to Cnet.

The defendant argued against this ruling, saying that Section 23123 had been later revised to include texting, not just carrying on cell phone conversations. In their opinion, if a statute could later be added to include texting to keep up with modern technology, then another revision of the law is necessary to include using cell phones as GPS devices.

The court disagreed, saying that the spirit of the law was meant to cover any device for which the owner has to actively use their hands.

As cell phones and smartphones become increasingly useful and gain new features, drivers are more likely to rely on them to complete everyday tasks. Unfortunately, as more people become distracted by these cell phones, the roadways become a very dangerous place. According to a recent study, the danger of driving while distracted by mobile device is much more an American problem than a European one.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study last month which found that 69 percent of all American drivers surveyed said they had taken a call on their cell phone while behind the wheel. British drivers, on the other hand, were much less likely to take the call as only 21 percent said they talked on the phone while driving.

Similarly, 31 percent of American drivers said they had read or sent a text message while behind the wheel while only 15 percent of Spanish drivers reported the same behavior.

“The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC in this study.

“Driving and dialing or texting don´t mix. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cell phone.”

It´s safe to assume that the State of California wants drivers to pull over even if they´re looking for directions in Apple maps as well.