If you’re driving along Route 101 and fire up Google Maps to check the traffic, don’t be surprised if you get pulled over. A California appellate court ruled late last month that “I was just using the maps” is no excuse.
The case centered around Steven Spriggs, who was spotted using his device and got pulled over by police. Spriggs argued that he was merely using the GPS feature, not actually engaged in conversation or messaging, but it didn’t matter. The court deemed that all manner of device usage — whether texting, dialing numbers or glancing at a map or directions — is pretty much the same under the law. He was still “using a wireless telephone” that wasn’t “configured to all hands-free listening or talking.”
In other words, if the phone is in your hand and being used while you’re operating a motor vehicle, it’s considered distracted driving and is therefore illegal in California under Vehicle Code section 23123, subdivision (a).
Navigation solutions for smartphones are getting pretty sophisticated, but there are still some key areas that are only accessible via touch, like traffic info and points of interest. Hopefully developers are paying attention. It would be great if voice commands were more comprehensive, especially for navigation or road travel apps.
But until that happens, watch your back. And if you absolutely have to look up something in maps or another app, be on the safe side and pull over first.