California Court: In-car Smart Phones OK, If Driver Not Talking or Texting

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Nav­i­gat­ing while dri­ving and oth­er smart phone uses not pro­hib­it­ed by law

A Cal­i­for­nia Appel­late court over­turned a traf­fic tick­et issued to dri­ver using his smart­phone to find an alter­nate route. Accord­ing to the rul­ing, the Cal­i­for­nia law nar­row­ly pro­hib­it­ed the use of the phone for talk­ing and tex­ting, but not mere­ly con­sult­ing the device. Like oth­er states, Cal­i­for­nia only per­mits hand free use of phones.

The rul­ing may be appealed by the state. The plaintiff’s attor­ney sug­gests that the 2006 stat­ue could be updat­ed and broad­ened. But that could leave the state still in a quandary, because there would be an out­cry if the state attempt­ed to ban dis­tract­ed dri­ving itself. That cat­e­go­ry includes in-car eat­ing, in-car drink­ing, tun­ing the radio, check­ing maps, and now, appar­ent­ly, con­sult­ing smart phone maps. Per­haps these activ­i­ties will be per­mit­ted in autonomous vehi­cles.  In the mean­time, bemused law enforce­ment agen­cies are try­ing to deter­mine how they can enforce­ment the cur­rent law. Time for some new tech­nol­o­gy?

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