When it is okay for drivers to punch in characters — dial a phone number, say — now that texting behind the wheel is illegal in California, which still happens to be the texting-while-driving capital of the nation?
No one seems to know. And that, in our view, only gives police more authority to pull you over and play judge-and-jury.
Experts, including a California Highway Patrol official, couldn't come up with cut-and-dried answers to questions about when it's okay to use a smartphone while driving. Here's what the CHP's Steve Creel told the Mercury News:
When you look for loopholes, the whole issue of cellphone use, texting or distracted driving becomes confusing, if not overwhelming.
Say a cop stops you for texting and driving. How does she know you weren't dialing a number — which is legal. She doesn't. That's what makes this law a farce. You shouldn't have been pulled over if there was any question about your behavior (yeah, yeah, tell it the judge).
The Mercury News:
… It's legal to read, select and enter a phone number while driving — as long as you put the phone down before talking …
That pretty much covers everything you could have been doing, right? And no cop would really know otherwise.
And, uh, you can't have your phone in your hand to use its GPS/map function. (Again, no one outside your car would know you're not starting a call, however).
San Jose State professor John Clapp: ” I think it must be a poorly written law. I think we should be able to do better.”