California Court Rules Anti-Texting Laws Apply to Checking Maps While Driving

Monday April 8, 2013 2:21 PM PDT by Juli Clover
iphonemapscrop.jpgAccording to a court ruling from the California Court of Appeals (via Orin Kerr), using a mobile phone such as Apple's iPhone to check or update a mapping or GPS program violates the state's distracted driving law. Vehicle Code 23123, aka the distracted driving law, was developed to prohibit drivers from texting and making handheld calls with a mobile phone.

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.
This case requires us to determine whether using a wireless phone solely for its map application function while driving violates Vehicle Codesection 23123. We hold that it does.

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 law applies only to mobile phones, not to in-car touch-controlled navigation systems. iPhone users who need to access maps for directions can use Apple's Siri for handsfree GPS access.

Top Rated Comments

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Posted: 21 months ago
So, stay tuned for laws that prohibit turning on the radio, changing radio stations, operating the window cranks or buttons, etc. California...the nanniest of the Nanny States.
Rating: 16 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
So, it's legal to use a Garmin mounted to the windshield.....but not an iPhone mounted to the windshield......

Hrmmmmmm
Rating: 15 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
Can I still eat a Big Mac while shaving with my electric shaver while driving? If so, then I'm good.

Seriously, why not just make a true "distracted driving" law that covers all the stupid stuff people should not be doing while driving?

I'm not sure I see what the difference is between using the built-in Nav unit (many of which are much less intuitive and much slower to interact with, thus taking more of your attention) and a mobile phone.
Rating: 9 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
I think the court erred in its reasoning, as it failed to consider the fact that a driver who is in need of directions would have the additional burden and distraction of being lost but for having the ability to get directions from the phone.

Essentially, navigating is a fundamental requirement of driving (unlike making phone calls or sending text), thus, it is faulty logic to treat them as being the same in this context.
Rating: 8 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
If you read the actual PDF that is linked from the article you will see MR left out an important point that makes all the difference to the story.

"each testified that, while driving, appellant was cited for looking at a
map on his cellular phone while holding the phone in his hand."

The law bars use of a mobile phone IN YOUR HAND.( I know this because I actually live in California). If your phone is on a mount and you touch the screen or interact, you will not get pulled over. That's why the Garmin units don't count. Because they are mounted in the car. I have even talked to police officers I know and they are looking for someone with a phone to their ear, in their hand or a their heads down operating something. They normally do not mess with someone touching something on their dash.

That doesn't mean it is any less distracting, it is just the way they enforce the law.

Some ass-hat in the state assembly is trying to get voice texting banned as well because it is "equally distracting".

That said I do agree with making things hands free. Why? Because of the number of times I have almost been run into and look at the driver and they have their heads facing their laps or are holding a phone to their ear. In fact I would say in my experience that 3/4 of the time some jackass almost runs into me they are frakking with a hand-held device of some sort.

And it isn't a nanny law. Technically a nanny law keeps you from doing something that would only harm yourself, like not wearing a seat belt. This law is meant to prevent you from KILLING another person because you couldn't put down your damn cell phone. That is fair. You cannot safely operate a vehicle with your head facing your lap.

MacRumors was sloppy in reporting this without providing the context to this story and clarifying how the existing law is enforced.:mad:
Rating: 8 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago

So, it's legal to use a Garmin mounted to the windshield.....but not an iPhone mounted to the windshield......

Hrmmmmmm


Exactly

If they use the logic "the primary evil to is prevent distractions" as the basis for not allowing map access, then why are garmin devices ANY different?

What if I was using an old iphone as a dedicated gps device?
Rating: 7 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
The danger is real (and not just to you the driver), and no law can ever be perfect.

But my iPhone is MUCH easier/quicker to navigate with than the standalone Garmins/etc. I see people fumbling with.

Maybe a better law would be: no TYPING or manual text entry on any device by a driver. No texting, no searching for a song, no entering an address--and that goes for Garmins, music players, phones... anything. But you're free to use your navigator/phone in other ways, like skipping songs, toggling the map view, etc. (and of course voice operation).

It's not a perfect rule but at least it's clear and covers a lot of dangerous situations. Pull over if you need to enter information!

Siri saves the day for me. She doesn't always get my more obscure web searches right, and her geofence reminders have... issues... But she's nearly flawless at understanding my navigation queries, including weird restaurant names, and I've never had her mess up an SMS either. (She's less than perfect with song and artist names... but I just shuffle my music and Skip anyway.)
Rating: 7 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago

Exactly... As usual I will continue doing as I please with no consequences... I text as I need, as well as spend a lot of time on the phone in my car for work. These half baked laws are a joke.


Most people believe they are above average. Clearly you believe that putting some of your attention elsewhere will not affect your driving. Usually you will be correct.

Perhaps the only deterrent should be complete liability for any damages if you are found to have interacted with your phone within 15 seconds of an accident.

As my teen son will state, nothing is ever my fault, other people are just idiots.
Rating: 5 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago
So I assume all those Police cruzers with those mobile units, and radio systems are not considered driving distractions? I can not tell you how many times I see a police officer driving down the highway looking at their mobile laptops. I am thinking the people enforcing these laws are total fools. No, I am not assuming, they obviously are...
Rating: 4 Votes
Posted: 21 months ago

So I assume all those Police cruzers with those mobile units, and radio systems are not considered driving distractions? I can not tell you how many times I see a police officer driving down the highway looking at their mobile laptops. I am thinking the people enforcing these laws are total fools. No, I am not assuming, they obviously are...


Every time I see a cop driving they break a law. Speeding, lane changes without signaling, rolling stops...
Rating: 4 Votes

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