Yet another example of California's stupid texting-while-driving-related laws has reared its head this spring:
A panel of judges ruled that using a handheld smartphone's GPS function while driving is against the law in this great state:
The state appeals court in Fresno last month said that holding your GPS device in your hand and hoping for the right directions is still illegal under our texting-while-driving laws.
That flies in the face of previous interpretations, including a CHP officer in 2011 who said it was fine.
Another CHP officer said this:
When you look for loopholes, the whole issue of cellphone use, texting or distracted driving becomes confusing, if not overwhelming.
The DMV itself says that, in fact, it's legal for drivers to look down at their phones for dialing and receiving calls. (And it would be nearly impossible, if you ask us, for cops to determine if you're using GPS or texting at that point).
But somebody needs to let the DMV know they've misinterpreted the law, because the panel of appellate court judges said this:
… The legislative history set out above suggests that the bill was designed to prohibit the “hands-on” use of the phone while driving, without limitation.
What's more, the state allows you to mount a GPS device on your windshield (in the lower, left-hand corner), and use it.
But the judges knocked down holding your phone and using Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.
They also acknowledged that the law is a mess:
It may be argued that the Legislature acted arbitrarily when it outlawed all “hands-on” use of a wireless telephone while driving, even though the legal use of one‟s hands to operate myriad other devices poses just as great a risk to the safety of other motorists. It may also be argued that prohibiting driving while using “electronic
wireless communications devices” for texting and emailing, while acknowledging and failing to prohibit perhaps even more distracting uses of the same devices, is equally illogical and arbitrary. Both arguments should be addressed to the Legislature
Basically, this court is saying you can't use your phone in your car for anything unless you're talking hands-free. And that, to us, means that you should pull over and stop to take and make calls.
We expect the geniuses in Sacramento to straighten this out sometime. Of course, there are already laws on the book that allow cops to stop you for distracted driving, regardless of what you have in your hand.