According to a court ruling from the California Court of Appeals (via Orin Kerr), using a mobile phone to check or update a mapping or GPS program violates the state’s distracted driving law and California anti-texting laws. Vehicle Code 23123, aka the distracted driving law, was developed to prohibit drivers from texting and making handheld calls with a mobile phone. This new interpretation of the law helps define distracted driving as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.
This case requires us to determine whether using a wireless phone solely for its map application function while driving violates Vehicle Code section 23123. We hold that it does. The ruling came in late March after a driver was cited for driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone. The driver, who was accessing the phone for directions, argued that he had not been using the phone for talking or texting, which led to the newly expanded law.
Our review of the statute’s plain language leads us to conclude that the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate 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 emails.
The expanded California anti-texting laws apply only to mobile phones, not to in-car touch-controlled or voice-controlled navigation systems.
“This statute … is specifically designed to prevent a driver from using a wireless telephone while driving unless the device is being used in a hands-free manner,” Alvarez concludes.
In other words, if you’ve got an iPhone, use Siri; if you’ve got an Android phone, use its voice commands. In both cases, rely on the audible turn-by-turn navigation cues — and don’t try to enter a new destination or reroute your trip with your fingertips while you’re driving.
Otherwise, you’re liable for a $20 fine on the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.
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