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Using Handheld Phone GPS While Driving Is Legal In California 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-just-wait-for-somebody-to-make-a-GPS-bejeweled-mashup dept.
jfruh writes "Steven R. Spriggs was ticketed and fined $165 for violating California's law on cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, which states that you can only use a phone while driving if you have a hands-free device. But he appealed the judgement, arguing that the law only applied to actually talking on the phone, whereas he had been caught checking his GPS app. Now an appeals court has agreed with him. The law in question was enacted in 2006, before the smartphone boom."
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Using Handheld Phone GPS While Driving Is Legal In California

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  • No reason why a windshield or dash mount cant be required for using the phone as a gps.

    • by pr0fessor (1940368) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:16PM (#46367973)

      No reason why a windshield or dash mount cant be required for using the phone as a gps.

      A cell phone mount is required in some states to use it for gps including the one I live in. I had three cars totaled while they were parked by cell phone users two before they passed a no cell phone law and once after.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Interesting.

        What states ban cell phone talking while driving? GPS while driving?

        My state really only recently made it an offense to text while driving, but everything else in most states I move about it don't restrict cell phone use for talking etc...nor do they require hands free.

        Is it mostly just CA and NY that ban all things cell phone while operating a vehicle?

        • No states ban all cell phone use while driving. Some states ban cell phone use under certain conditions - novice drivers, school bus drivers, commercial vehicles, etc.

          • New york
            • it's not a complete ban

              Exceptions to the Laws

              When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand.
              Using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface.
              Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
              When the purpose of the phone call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital

        • Kansas did about five or six years ago you can talk on the phone but texting and apps are a $60 fine. if you are using it for GPS it needs to be in some kind of mount.

          Same in Colorado and Nebraska but I'm not sure how much the fine is.

          Missouri bans texting for driver under 21 years old.

          Oklahoma bans texting or cell phone use for intermediate or learner permits and a distracted driving law that a cell phone could fall under if you are in an accident while using it.

        • by parkinglot777 (2563877) on Friday February 28, 2014 @01:25PM (#46368611)

          What states ban cell phone talking while driving?

          Here you are http://www.ghsa.org/html/state... [ghsa.org]

          • From your link: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.
            Which makes the OP's point.
            • From my understanding, "What states ban cell phone talking while driving?" != "Is there any state that bans all cell phone use for all drivers?"
        • by gnick (1211984)

          I don't know about state laws, but you'd better be "hands-free" in Santa Fe. Personally, I find someplace to pull over should I need to talk because I find myself distracted but am safer looking at a GPS-focused map than craning my neck to figure where the hell I'm going. My wife's just the opposite - She talks on the phone just fine while driving, but looking at a GPS unit could endanger herself and others.

          • I don't know about state laws, but you'd better be "hands-free" in Santa Fe. Personally, I find someplace to pull over should I need to talk because I find myself distracted but am safer looking at a GPS-focused map than craning my neck to figure where the hell I'm going. My wife's just the opposite - She talks on the phone just fine while driving, but looking at a GPS unit could endanger herself and others.

            In California stopping on the shoulder to talk on the phone will also result in a ticket. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

            • by gnick (1211984)

              Finding a place to pull over doesn't necessarily mean the side of the freeway. And, from my experience in CA having lived in the Bay Area for ~6 years, I'd feel safer walking through Oakland wearing a KKK robe/hood than sitting at the side of the freeway. Thank the gods for BART.

              • by JeffAtl (1737988) on Friday February 28, 2014 @05:12PM (#46370659)

                Unless the law explicitly excludes it, being pulled over anywhere while sitting in the driver's seat with the keys accessible is considered "driving".

                A person can get a DUI while sleeping in their car in a parking lot.

                • This is not true in California. "Driving" requires that they prove you had your car in motion while you were drunk and at the controls.
                  • by JeffAtl (1737988)

                    I'm not disagreeing as California law does seem to be better in this regard than other states, but the police don't really have to prove anything to arrest a person for DUI. A person may get lucky and avoid a conviction, but the arrest is still on their record which can be enough to ruin their life.

                    I did a quick search and California DUI attorneys warn about having the car running even if parked - they advise sleeping in the back seat.

                    To be clear, I think that all of this is absurd. If MADD, cops and the

          • by cayenne8 (626475)
            I often use my phone to watch for cops with radar or breath checks using the phone app Trapster. I watch it and post when I see cops so other's can avoid the traps.

            But it isn't texting....

        • by icebike (68054)

          Is it mostly just CA and NY that ban all things cell phone while operating a vehicle?

          How did you get this deep into the conversation and not realize CA does NOT ban all things cell phone?
          The story is about CA.

      • I had three cars totaled while they were parked by cell phone users ...

        That's what you get for letting cell phone users park your cars. :-)

    • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:16PM (#46367979)

      Except ironically that would require repealing laws in California since windshield mounts were made illegal many years ago. I can't recall whether dash mounts were similarly criminalized. California became a nanny state a long time ago and that nanny is a German fraulein bitch.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        that nanny is a German fraulein bitch.

        Kinda like Senator Dianne Feinstein?

      • by BradMajors (995624) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:36PM (#46368145)

        Windshield mounts are legal in California in the lower left hand corner of the window.

      • by pepty (1976012) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:46PM (#46368237)

        Except ironically that would require repealing laws in California since windshield mounts were made illegal many years ago. I can't recall whether dash mounts were similarly criminalized. California became a nanny state a long time ago and that nanny is a German fraulein bitch.

        Oh the horror of not being allowed to put your GPS where it will block your view or get launched into your skull by an airbag. You can mount it to the windshield, but it has to be in a corner.

        (12) A portable Global Positioning System (GPS), which may be mounted in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver and outside of an airbag deployment zone,

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          I find that would be more obstructive than top-left or tucked against the mirror.

        • by asylumx (881307) on Friday February 28, 2014 @02:10PM (#46368985)
          There's an argument to be made that putting it nearer the center of the windshield helps you keep your eyes on the road, whereas putting it off in a corner makes you take your eyes off the road to look at it. Yes, it may block part of your vision beyond the windshield in that spot, but like I said, there's an argument to be made. If there weren't at least two sides to it, it wouldn't be much of an argument now would it?
        • Oh the horror of living as an adult who is capable of making decisions which impact only him.

          Next they should pass a law only allowing buying things on credit terms when the first 24 months are no interest and the interest rate is under 2% thereafter; and perhaps we can ban the consumption of buttered popcorn.

          If you want the government to make all of your decisions for you, you could move to North Korea or Cuba. Otherwise kindly mind your own business.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        Windshield mounts were made legal about 4-5 years ago, as long as they fit in the lower left corner of your windshield.
      • Except ironically that would require repealing laws in California since windshield mounts were made illegal many years ago.

        Whatchotalkin' 'bout Willis?

        Cal. Veh. Code 26708(b)(12) [ca.gov]: “A portable Global Positioning System (GPS) ... may be mounted in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver ...”

      • >>German fraulein bitch...

        Talk about the Dept of Redundancy Dept [urbandictionary.com]. Tell us how you really feel :P

    • You are correct, but that is not what the current law DOES.
  • I think that a smartphone mount should be mandatory so that the device isn't in your hand. Texting and driving is a huge safety issue, and I'd imaging that screwing around with a GPS (entering text) is similarly dangerous. It's unfortunate that the court isn't willing to uphold the spirit of the law here.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Dumb ruling, or accurate ruling on a dumb law?
      • by Yold (473518)

        Read the article, there is a relevant clause of the legislation that is open to interpretation. This is why we have courts, so that the interpretation of laws can progress with changes to technology, society, etc.

        How are police supposed to distinguish between drivers texting and drivers using their GPS? Texting requires hands-free operation, so should using a GPS.

    • Re:Dumb ruling (Score:5, Informative)

      by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:26PM (#46368075) Homepage
      If you want to uphold the real spirit of the law you outlaw any use of any phone - mount or not.

      Studies have shown that hands free mountings do NOT reduce accidents.

      • by suutar (1860506)
        Then you should also ban GPS units. Or is there some significant difference between a phone GPS app in a handsfree mount and a Garmin GPS appliance? The studies I've heard of that address your point are still talking about conversation, not GPS usage.
        • by gurps_npc (621217)
          Most people don't look at the GPS, they listen to it. Big difference. Personally, I think they should put them so that the driver can't see them, just the passenger in the shotgun seat.
      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Personally, i dont touch my phone while moving. I *might* look at the phone at a stoplight to see who called, and pull over to call back if its important, but i wont even talk on the phone while driving.

        I also dont yak up a storm with passengers, for the same reason.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I think that a smartphone mount should be mandatory so that the device isn't in your hand.

      Even better: Make the navigation app stop responding to input whenever the phone is moving.

      • Re:Dumb ruling (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:47PM (#46368241) Homepage

        Even better: Make the navigation app stop responding to input whenever the phone is moving.

        The phone can't distinguish between the driver using the phone while it's moving and a passenger using the phone while it's moving. I, for one, would be very annoyed if my phone stopped working whenever I was riding in someone else's car, or on public transportation. There's also the fact that this misfeature would actively prevent a passenger from assisting the driver with navigation functions.

        • Re:Dumb ruling (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nugatory78 (971318) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:57PM (#46368349)
          This is exactly the issue I have with my Subaru BRZ. If the car is moving, you can't enter information into the GPS. Thats all well and good when there is only me in the car, but stopping my passenger from using it is asinine! I hit this issue on a road trip, I wanted my passenger to try and find somewhere up ahead for us to eat (in the country with no decent cell data connection). I ended up having to pull off the highway and pull over just to find a nearby restaurant... not impressed.
          • This is exactly the issue I have with my Subaru BRZ. If the car is moving, you can't enter information into the GPS. Thats all well and good when there is only me in the car, but stopping my passenger from using it is asinine! I hit this issue on a road trip, I wanted my passenger to try and find somewhere up ahead for us to eat (in the country with no decent cell data connection). I ended up having to pull off the highway and pull over just to find a nearby restaurant... not impressed.

            Same with Lexus. They have blocked input to the Nav system if the car is not in Park. So now it's just a nice screen to show where you are since the input in vehicles kinda sucks anyway compared to dedicated GPS or phones.

          • by liquidsin (398151)

            On a recent trip I rented a Hyundai Elantra. The bluetooth-enabled stereo wouldn't let you sync a phone while the vehicle was in gear, which kind of frustrated my passenger who wanted to sync up his phone and listen to some tunes.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          This. So damn annoying.

      • So you suggest people stopping on the freeway and waiting until they can make changes to their device? How about we just make the driving test harder so not every shit driver can get one
    • by Talderas (1212466)

      They should just pass a law that states that you must be hands free while driving. Problem solved because that's the obvious reason for the cell phone law.

      • Except many studies have shown that hands-free phone operation is about just as bad as hands-on.

        Most of the distraction-based accidents are caused by people picking the wrong time to do something, even simple things like changing radio station, heating/AC settings or checking their speedometer.

        Hands-free does not prevent people from letting themselves get distracted by or otherwise focusing their attention on the wrong things at the wrong time. Some people have suggested locking out non-essential controls w

        • by Ichijo (607641)

          Most of the distraction-based accidents are caused by people picking the wrong time to do something, even simple things like changing radio station, heating/AC settings or checking their speedometer.

          ...and not maintaining a safe following distance [wikipedia.org] under the conditions. It's perfectly safe to do those things if you give yourself enough reaction time.

          ...most people grossly over-estimate their abilities and the safety margins around them so we end up with stiff restrictions to eliminate most variables.

          Except

          • Trying to set maximum speeds based on 85th sounds like a futile thing to do: if that causes the speeds to rise, the 85th will likely rise when it gets re-evaluated at some future point until speeds are high enough that people do not dare go any faster and no matter what the maximum speed is, people still need to have the common sense to adjust speed based on driving conditions - people who fail to slow down when driving into fog, wet/snowy/icy roads, etc. is where/when monster pileups tend to start.

            There is

    • I think that a smartphone mount should be mandatory so that the device isn't in your hand. It's unfortunate that the court isn't willing to uphold the spirit of the law here.

      Would it be against the law to have a paper map sprawled out all over the console? Is this any less distracting than a device which automatically tells you where you are at all times? If referencing paper maps is legal it is not clear to me "spirit" of law is consistent with your interpretation especially given GPS maps on cell phones didn't exist at the time this law was enacted.

      Texting and driving is a huge safety issue, and I'd imaging that screwing around with a GPS (entering text) is similarly dangerous.

      There is no information to suggest from ruling any inputting or screwing around was occurring at the time. "Spriggs was cited

      • by Yold (473518)

        From the statute:

        23123. (a) 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.

        "Using a wireless telephone" is the part that is open to interpretation. I never said anything about any other object (map, etc.). The person had the phone in their hand. The vehicle was running and on a roadway (i.e. "driving"). I disagree that using smartphone functionality doesn't fall under the "using a wireless telephone" part of the statute.

        • "Using a wireless telephone" is the part that is open to interpretation. I never said anything about any other object (map, etc.). The person had the phone in their hand. The vehicle was running and on a roadway (i.e. "driving"). I disagree that using smartphone functionality doesn't fall under the "using a wireless telephone" part of the statute.

          I think I was making an argument in the broader context of what is effectively allowed by law not limited specifically a single law.

          Lets say instead of a phone the object in hand while driving was a Garmin for the sake of argument assume the interface is materially similar to that of a smartphone mapping application. How does one being illegal when they are the same make any sense? In 2006 most people only made calls and sent text messages via their wireless telephones. Very few had access to smart phon

  • by Dareth (47614) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:10PM (#46367919)

    If he was only pulled over because the officer observed him using an electronic device then the driver was correct. If he was pulled over for dangerous or reckless driving while using a device then the office wrote him the wrong ticket.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If he was pulled over for dangerous or reckless driving while using a device then the office wrote him the wrong ticket.

      Dangerous and reckless driving are subjective judgements. If there is any debate, the debate can become expensive. Talking on your cellphone is illegal whether you're driving badly or not, and it can easily be proven from records. So they go for the ticket which requires less paperwork and less potential time in court.

  • Arguably, simply holding your phone to your ear and talking on it is a lot less distracting than LOOKING at the phone and tapping to find map directions.

    Why is the former illegal, while the latter is okay? Either make them both illegal, or make it okay to *talk* on the phone as well.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Kind of moot since he was not moving at the time (see TFA). But you don't have to be tapping to find map directions in order to use a mapping app. Often the app itself doesn't allow that.

      The navigator built into my vehicle will give you turn-by-turn while you're moving, but won't let you program an address unless the parking brake is on. The Garmin that we rented twice on trips back east would not let you program it if it sensed that you were in motion. This makes it kinda difficult when you have a navi

  • speaking as an angelino, using a cellphone in los angeles is arbitrarily legal depending on class and social status. Are you a police officer? Do you have diplomatic plates? were you Justin Bieber? then rev up those angry birds on the 101 and get ready to snapchat your next novel.
    if you're one of the unwashed masses then be prepared for an almost entirely random enforcement experience. is today a warning day? or is it our legendary MANDATORY ENFORCEMENT ZONE policy where you'll be fined no matter what.
    • I was rear ended at a stop light coming off an interstate by a woman talking on her cell phone. She got out of the car and came up to my car window before I had even managed to collect myself. She was still talking on her cell phone, trying to carry on two conversations and beg me not to call the police because it didn't do any damage, it's her boyfriend's car, and she doesn't know if he has insurance.

      The only response I could get out was "uhhm" and to point at the sheriff standing behind her. Apparently th

      • by k6mfw (1182893)

        I have no idea what she was charged with but they took her away in handcuffs.

        was she able to continue her conversation per hands-free feature on cellphone?

        • No, but I wouldn't have been surprised if she had tried.

        • I have no idea what she was charged with but they took her away in handcuffs.

          was she able to continue her conversation per hands-free feature on cellphone?

          I was going to say something to the affect of, "there wouldn't have been an accident if she used handsfree"; but no, I doesn't sound like she even had the mental capacity for carrying on a conversation with someone in the vehicle and driving either.

    • ...there is nothing about LA that precludes you from setting your 4-ways, pulling over, checking the phone, and safely entering traffic again.

      That's also illegal, at least on the freeways. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vct... [ca.gov]

  • Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's a good idea.

  • They are still around but soon they will be no more. You will have to subscribe to a cellphone service and have a connection (lots of luck in rural areas). There is nav systems built into cars that contains maps in memory (but have to pay I heard a few hundreds every year to upgrade). Call me a luddite but I liked the Thomas Guides (map page and grid). Unlike large foldout maps, these are like a book. With paper maps I can quickly look at general spot of my destination, then do an overview on how to get the

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      No one prints them around my parts.

      But regardless, it doesn't really address the issue here, as you could always look at your digital map before you left the house so you know where you are going before you get there. Your map being on paper doesn't matter. In the old days when i traveled a lot, i have seen people trying to read maps 1/2 folded in their passenger seat weaving all over the place.

    • A couple points:

      1) You do not need a data connection to use GPS navigation. You do need to obtain offline maps and an app that can use them. I typically use OSMAnd with OpenStreetMaps when I'm traveling internationally to avoid data roaming charges.

      2) I'm old enough to have grown up with Thomas Guides, and then printing out directions from MapQuest after that, and trying to figure out your next turn with them is far more distracting than using a GPS nav app. Looking at a paper map while driving should be co

  • All the ruling says is that particular law does not apply to smart phones displaying maps. It says nothing about the law that deals with devices that can display video and do not have a vehicle interlock. The driver was just charged with the incorrect offence.

  • Don't care if its a 'real' gps, phone, radio or just looking at your passenger's tits. If you take your eyes of the road for any amount of time at all you *are* distracted, and a hazard to others.

    Tragedy can happen in a liberal blink of an eye at road speeds, if you are not looking at what is going on around you, it can happen before you even know it was going to.

  • A friend of mine was ticketed a few months ago for checking the map on her cell phone while she was stopped at a red light. Some things are just absurd.

For God's sake, stop researching for a while and begin to think!

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