A recent ruling by the California Court of Appeals has made the mundane activity of checking or updating Maps using a smartphone WHILST you are driving – an illegal act in California. The ruling is now part of Vehicle Code 23123 which deals with “Distracted Driving”. This code was initially enacted to rein in drivers who had the habit of texting and talking on their mobile phones while being on the wheel. However, the inclusion of the usage of Mapping software whilst driving – which many consider to be an important part of driving under the aegis of this law seems to have come under flak.
That said, let us clarify that the ban is ONLY on the usage of standalone smartphones whilst driving. If your car in California ha a dedicated GPS Navigation system and you are caught using it, you’d be fine. The latest “expansion” in the law came after a driver who was caught for “using a mobile phone while driving” argues that he was not using the same for either texting or calling and that he was using the navigation software in it to check for directions.
Here is what the court ruling states:
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.
All said, you can still use software like Siri that would speak out to you and offer turn by turn navigation – without you actually having to reach out and touch your phone.