Driving, Smartphone Maps OK at the Same Time, Calif. Court Rules

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 05:20 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Drivers in California can continue to use their smartphone maps while driving after a California appellate court ruled Thursday that it’s not against the law to do so.

The case came before the court after Steven Spriggs got a ticket for distracted driving while looking at a map on his smartphone while he was stuck in traffic in Fresno, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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The 5th District Court of Appeal ruled in Spriggs' favor, contending that the “statute is reasonably construed as only prohibiting engaging in a conversation on a wireless telephone while driving and holding the telephone in one’s hand.”

“The Legislature’s focus was on prohibiting holding the telephone only while carrying on a conversation, not while using it for any other purpose. This is not surprising, given that when the statute was enacted in 2006, most wireless telephones were just that — a telephone — rather than an electronic device with multiple functions,” the court said in its decision.

The Times said that the Legislature dealt specifically with texting while driving in separate legislation, banning it in 2009.

“Right now the police jurisdictions should be on notice,” Spriggs told the Times. “I’ve been contacted by dozens and dozens of people who have traffic court scheduled in the next week, and they’ve been asking me how I beat the case.”

But Spriggs lost twice, first in traffic court and then in Fresno County Superior Court’s appeal division, the Times said. His appellate attorney, Scott Reddie, apparently had what the Times called a “personal interest” in the case because of a traffic ticket he got for eating and drinking while driving. That ticket was thrown out when Reddie showed the judge a receipt indicating he did not buy a drink, the Times said.

Reddie did clarify to the Times that he and Spriggs never said it was good practice to read a map while driving a car. Spriggs was stopped in highway traffic when he received his ticket.

The state could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the Times said.

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