Last week California made it illegal to use your smartphone while driving even if it is to check your GPS for directions. The surprise doesn’t come making it a law—looking at your device while driving is considered a hazardous distraction after all—it’s that this was even considered a loophole to the law. It comes off as really specific and is just odd that this had to be made clear in the California Vehicle Code.
The ruling came about from the result of an early 2012 case involving a Stephen Spriggs when he was handed a citation for violating section 23123. This section touch on using a wireless phone is only allowed if setup to allow the driver to interact with it hands-free as not to distract from the visual concentration required while driving. Spriggs went to make this to make this very specific by mentioning that the section didn’t state that he couldn’t use the phone for looking at the GPS.
This is more of a common sense issue than an issue of legal clarity. While you could get downright specific and go into changing the radio or eating while driving, it’s the idea that if the law mentions that the device should be hands free for two things that are distractions and could definitely be dangerous how could it cross a driver’s mind that they could hold the phone and check their GPS or glance over at it while it’s in the passenger side seat.
Apparently it’s also against the law to have it mounted on the windshield in California, so hands free/voice activated software makes sense. Not only that, but some version of those apps could be found for free in the driver’s smartphone store. Even if the software costs a few dollars, it beats the driver hurting himself or herself as well as someone else or getting a citation like Mr. Spriggs. Other countries such as Germany passed a similar law back in 2008—again probably because someone thought “That’s a pretty…big loophole there, don’t you think?”
It’s almost like “How can I get out of this situation? Oh yeah! I’ll look at the law, find a loophole in intent, and maybe claim a lapse in common sense. I don’t know.” It could only be: a lack of common sense in knowing some things are counted together by association (in this case the driving hazard that having to interact with your mobile device while operating a several thousand pound piece of steel, fiber glass, glass, gas, and other things mechanical could pose) or knowing that you were caught and just trying escape without having to deal with the citation.
How about you? What do you think of this law? Waste of municipal resources? Is it a catalyst for snowballing driving laws beyond mobile devices? Or do you agree with the ruling? Let us know!