While you may get a ticket if you talk on a cell phone or text while driving, you may be let off the hook if you are looking at the map on your cell phone while driving.
According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, that was the conclusion of a California appeals court in Fresno, which for the first time in the state, found that drivers could use maps on their smartphones without risking a hands-free cell phone ticket.
The court’s ruling might elicit a sigh of relief from drivers who have come to rely on cell phone maps and GPS systems. However, this appellate court decision may still not end the confusion over what’s legal and what’s not under California’s hands-free law.
The Many Forms of Distracted Driving
California Highway Patrol officials have said that any type of distraction – whether it’s fiddling with the radio or GPS, could lead to a ticket. CHP officials say any time a driver pays too much attention to an electronic device and not the road, he or she can be cited for distracted driving.
In addition to electronic devices, other distractions such as reading a magazine, eating, drinking or applying makeup could also lead to a ticket.
In the most recent case, the driver in question contended that he did not violate the hands-free law because he was not talking on the phone. He was only using the map feature.
Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office has argued against the appellate court’s ruling saying that existing vehicle codes ban all hand-held use of cell phones including maps.
All Distracted Driving is Dangerous
Any form of distracted driving is dangerous. California law prohibits drivers from texting or using a handheld cell phone while driving.
According to California Vehicle Code Section 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.”
Anyone who causes an injury accident while driving in a distracted manner, in addition to facing citations or charges, can also be held financially responsible for the victim’s injuries, damages and losses.
Injured victims of distracted drivers would be well advised to seek the counsel of an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will help protect their legal rights and look out for their best interests.