Mapping While Driving: It’s Legal. For Now.
You’ve probably heard about Steven Spriggs, cited for distracted driving while looking at a map on his smartphone and fined $165. The California Highway Patrol says Spriggs violated a motor vehicle law that makes it illegal to use a cell phone while driving, unless it is hands–free.
The California Code that specifically addresses this situation states,
A person shall not drive a motor 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.
Spriggs claimed he did not violate the statute because he wasn’t talking. A California Fifth Appellate District Court agreed with him yesterday, saying the code prohibits a driver from holding a cell phone while talking on it, reversing the ruling of lower courts that interpreted the law to prohibit all cell phone use while driving.
This may not be the final word on mapping while driving though. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the California Attorney General’s Office believes state law bans all hand-held cellphone use while driving.
A spokesperson from the CHP contends that “drivers can be cited for anything an officer considers a distraction, such as reading a magazine, drinking a latte, fussing with kids in the back seat – or poking around on a mapping device.”
Additionally, Spriggs’ case may go to the Supreme Court if the State chooses to appeal.
There’s no way to determine the ultimate outcome at this point, but that doesn’t mean drivers should feel free to start poking away at their phones without a second thought. Current California distracted driving laws state:
- Texting while driving is illegal.
- Talking on a hand-held device while driving is illegal.
- Drivers under 18 cannot use any wireless device while driving.
If current laws don’t put a stop to distracted driving, hopefully common sense will.