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Ruling says drivers who use mobile map apps run afoul of the law

Like dozens of other states, California has enacted legislation that prohibits drivers from texting behind the wheel. Of course, as is often the case, the legislation tends to lag behind the technology.

While texting is still incredibly commonplace, other types of mobile device use are arguably just as dangerous. But, anti-texting legislation is not always tailored to address these other types of mobile device use.

Yet, judicial interpretation of existing laws can sometimes extend their applicability. When a California driver was cited recently over an alleged violation of the states distracted driving ban, he challenged the ticket on the grounds that he was not talking or texting, but was using a navigation app on his smartphone.

It’s true that California’s distracted driving ban references communicative activities like talking and texting, and that its references to “wireless telephones” sound a bit Precambrian considering the capabilities of the mobile computers most of us are carrying around in our pockets. Even so, the court ruled that the thrust of the law was eliminating any type of mobile device use that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel, and upheld the citation.

In light of the ruling, it is now clear that even using a map app violates California’s ban on handheld phone use by drivers. It is also important to remember that even distracting behaviors that are not technically in violation of the law – like talking on a hands free mobile device – can result in liability for a driver who causes an accident.

Source: Gotta Be mobile, Checking Smartphone Maps While Driving Now Illegal in California, Chad Kirchner, May 18, 2013

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