In California, drivers are still prohibited from using their mobile phones for texting or calling while they are driving. But what if they need to check out map apps to know where they are going? A state appeals court recently ruled that checking apps on smartphones while driving is not prohibited by state legislation.
Last February 27, the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno handed a ruling in favor of a driver who was making an appeal for a $165 road traffic violation ticket he incurred from an officer of the California Highway Patrol. The incident happed in January 2012. The driver, Steven Spriggs, said he was checking his iPhone for a map app while being stuck in traffic.
He was originally issued a ticket for allegedly violating the Vehicle Code section of California law. It prohibits drivers in the entire state from using wireless telephone unless that device is particularly designed as well as configured to facilitate listening and talking hands-free.
Not clear prohibitions in the law
Aside from reversing Mr. Spriggs’ ticket, the appellate court opined that the statute being cited did not prohibit using any map app, or any app for that reason, on a mobile phone, even if the device is held in the driver’s hand, as Mr. Spriggs was doing when he received the ticket from a traffic officer.
He has been insisting that he did not technically violate any law because he was actually not talking on the smartphone. The court agreed with that position. In its ruling, the appellate court said the state law only prohibits drivers from holding wireless telephones while talking or texting using those devices.
Need for changes
The judges on the case specified that the wordings of the statute should have been written more broadly. They asserted that if the Legislature intended prohibiting a driver from holding his mobile phone for all purposes, it should have set limits for the phone’s required configuration and design to just listening and talking hands-free.
In a media interview, Mr. Spriggs said he is hoping that that state legislators would eventually re-word the current law. He reiterated the need for the law to make it clearer how mobile phones should or should not be used by drivers who are on the road. He asserted that by doing so, traffic officers could more effectively do their jobs.