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California court ruling frees drivers to use map apps on cellphones

post #1 of 22
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A California state appellate court on Thursday reversed a ruling of a man who was ticketed for using a mapping app on his iPhone 4 while driving, opening the door to reform of the state's laws regarding cellphone use while driving.

Maps


In its decision, California's 5th District Court of Appeal ruled the state's laws are worded in such a way that does not prohibit drivers from using certain apps like mapping software while driving, reports The Associated Press.

In January of 2012, Steven Spriggs was issued a ticket by a California Highway Patrol officer for using his iPhone 4 while stuck in traffic caused by roadwork. Spriggs challenged the $165 fine, arguing his use of a mapping app to find an alternate route did not break state laws barring talking on a cellphone while driving.

After losing in both traffic court and the Fresno County Superior Court, Spriggs ultimately brought the case to the district appeals court. After review, the appellate court reversed the lower court's decision, saying the law leveraged by the CHP officer to cite Spriggs applied only to "listening and talking" on a cellphone, not other uses.

The case shines a light on laws designed to protect against distracted driving, which some critics argue are unclear or too narrow. While some states have strict "no touch" laws that make holding a cellphone while behind the wheel illegal, others have statutes similar to California's narrowly-worded "no talk, no text" rules.

With smartphones like Apple's iPhone, users have access to a wide variety of apps that can be useful while commuting. Others, like games, messaging apps and other attention-grabbing titles have the potential to cause accidents.

Spriggs said he wants existing laws to be rewritten in a way that is less vague and allows police officers to do their job more effectively.

"We're distracted all the time," he said. "If our distractions cause us to drive erratically, we should be arrested for driving erratically."

Thursday's ruling can be challenged on appeal by the state attorney general's office.
post #2 of 22
To check maps in the traffic jam is fine, I think. I am doing it sometimes while waiting for trafic light.
And of course we need clearer regulations.

I understand that people will continue using their cell phones regardless of the laws.
I just hope that the number of people (who use their smart phones not very smart) could BECOME LESS.

Those who use the cell phone while driving put ME in the much higher danger.
!!
Almost each 3d traffic crash is attributed to the cellphone usage.
Texting increases crash risk by 800%!

>>Washington, DC %u2013 The National Safety Council announced today that it estimates at least 28% of all traffic crashes %u2013 or at least 1.6 million crashes each year %u2013 involve drivers using cell phones and texting.

>>...are manipulating their device in ways that include texting and from research reporting texting increases crash risk by 8 times

Source: http://www.nsc.org/Pages/NSCestimates16millioncrashescausedbydriversusingcellphonesandtexting.aspx
post #3 of 22

This is a good thing. There needs to be some revision of the traffic laws to account for technology. As this case points out, not every use of the phone is the same. Cops will usually take the widest and most lucrative interpretation of the law. These laws need to be clearly spelled out so when the driver goes to court, he doesn't need to take it to the higher courts just to get a traffic ticket reversed.

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post #4 of 22

So if you think you're going to get pulled over for using your cell phone while driving, just quickly launch the Maps app and say you were trying to navigate somewhere. 

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post #5 of 22
In another piece of news on the smartphone legal front police in Texas can't search your phone if you're arrested according to the Texas Court of Appeals
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/02/texas-appeals-court-says-police-cant-search-your-phone-after-youre-jailed/
melior diabolus quem scies
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post #6 of 22

I'm impressed this even went so far as to get an appellate court ruling. The fact that Mr. Spriggs invested so much effort to fight the ticket is to be lauded, because almost everyone else simply pays the "low" fine because it's easier than to fight. That's why we get very few court rulings on small traffic violations. It's just not worth it to the defendant, as the best they achieve is to get their fine voided.

 

In this case, it's a rational reading of the law and outcome. The law does not have a blanket prohibition on the use of cell phones while driving. It's non-hands free talking and texting. A ban on usage while sitting in traffic makes no sense and is not even realistically enforceable.

post #7 of 22
Personally I think the phone needs to be mounted to use maps and not just in your hands.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urahara View Post

Those who use the cell phone while driving put ME in the much higher danger.
!!
Almost each 3d traffic crash is attributed to the cellphone usage.
Texting increases crash risk by 800%!

 

What does "using" mean? I'm "using" it when it's in hands free mode. I'm "using" it when speaking to Siri and giving it some commands, including call and texting. An unclear law is worse than no law at all because it leaves too much room for abuse by what have become vested interests in generating revenue through traffic citations. These things don't even get heard by judges for the most part, and usually just local traffic commissioners. So you have a police officer who is actively encouraged to generate more citations, a local prosecutor's office that is funded partially through the revenue generated by citations, and a traffic commissioner who is probably paid on a part time basis to hear traffic cases so the more cases the better.

 

Where's the disincentive in that system?

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by focher View Post

What does "using" mean? I'm "using" it when it's in hands free mode. I'm "using" it when speaking to Siri and giving it some commands, including call and texting. An unclear law is worse than no law at all because it leaves too much room for abuse by what have become vested interests in generating revenue through traffic citations. These things don't even get heard by judges for the most part, and usually just local traffic commissioners. So you have a police officer who is actively encouraged to generate more citations, a local prosecutor's office that is funded partially through the revenue generated by citations, and a traffic commissioner who is probably paid on a part time basis to hear traffic cases so the more cases the better.

Where's the disincentive in that system?

It's hard to concentrate on two things at once. Any consistent use of a phone while driving is hazardous. Ever watch a movie and talk to someone at the same time? Either you miss part of the conversation or part of the movie.
post #10 of 22

it's irrelevant what passes for laws here and what doesn't.  i have lived on the west side of los angeles for 20 years.  there simply aren't enough police to enforce any laws here.  it truly is the wild, wild west.  

post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jungmark View Post


It's hard to concentrate on two things at once. Any consistent use of a phone while driving is hazardous. Ever watch a movie and talk to someone at the same time? Either you miss part of the conversation or part of the movie.


Put that way, adjusting the heat in your car is dangerous. For us living further up north, we have to switch at times from defrost both rear and front to regular heating, because our feet are starting to get cold or the windows fog up.

I agree with you if consistent means texting, youtube, or even looking at maps because you forgot to turn on voice directions. 

post #12 of 22
It's very hard to fairly enforce a law that's narrower than "don't touch your phone". On the other hand, why should I be penalized because my music player and GPS is in my phone rather than being built into my car?

Consider narrow anti-texting laws in states that allow hands-on phone calls while driving. Someone could have a smartphone plugged into the car stereo and be choosing a song, or even writing a shopping list or looking at their calendar, and look like they're texting, but not be violating a narrow texting law that only bans sending and receiving non-voice, non-navigation data. At first glance, a cop has no probable cause to assert what the person is doing and might have to fall back on a preexisting distracted driving law.

Often unaddressed in texting laws is using Siri to dictate and listen to text messages: are you texting, or are you having an intelligent agent text for you, as though you legally placed a phone call to someone to instruct them compose text messages and read the responses to you?
post #13 of 22

Oh get real.  Anything at all that distracts attention from the primary task of driving and navigating is potentially hazardous.  Maybe the next step will be to not allow any conversation with passengers.

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post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDBA View Post


Put that way, adjusting the heat in your car is dangerous. For us living further up north, we have to switch at times from defrost both rear and front to regular heating, because our feet are starting to get cold or the windows fog up.
I agree with you if consistent means texting, youtube, or even looking at maps because you forgot to turn on voice directions. 

I'm not constantly adjusting my heat or AC when I'm driving. So that would take a quick second.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky King View Post

Oh get real.  Anything at all that distracts attention from the primary task of driving and navigating is potentially hazardous.  Maybe the next step will be to not allow any conversation with passengers.

Some states already ban teens from having more than one other teen in a car while driving.
Also, someone in the car should know when to keep quiet and let the driver concentrate.
post #16 of 22

Jungmark: "Personally I think the phone needs to be mounted to use maps and not just in your hands."

 

 

I agree. It's difficult to navigate with the cell phone resting low on the console. The best way is to have it elevated in such a way so you can easily glance at it without taking your eyes off the road, and you don't have to use your hands to lift it. 

 

I think car manufacturers should incorporate some sort of universal mount somewhere in the dash that accessory makers can use to securely attach better designed cell phone holders. Users can then purchase a cell phone holder that can easily be installed and secure their phone. Current non-destructive solutions that use suction cups, cup holders, the 12V outlet (!), velcro, and the seat bracket are not ideal. I use RAM Mounts with universal holders for our cars (one suction mount that falls off every few weeks despite the use of silicone grease, and another mount attached to the passenger seat bracket which doesn't work in all cars and whose installation is beyond the skill set of most drivers). 

 

Hopefully making it easy to install proper cell phone holders will encourage people to adopt them. Until then, we'll see plenty of people holding their phone to talk and text, despite the laws in California. My favorite is seeing drivers hold the phone just under their chin while in speaker mode. 

post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jungmark View Post


It's hard to concentrate on two things at once. Any consistent use of a phone while driving is hazardous. Ever watch a movie and talk to someone at the same time? Either you miss part of the conversation or part of the movie.

Agreed, it's the eyes off the road aspect, which is the same whether the too long focus is on a paper map or an electronic one.

 

Which is why I've long been puzzled that heads up displays such as Garmin's offering don't get more traction and more refinement (the information on Garmin's is sort of sparse).

 

And I certainly agree with the above that mounting closer to the line of sight out the windshield is best to lessen the time spent "away" from looking down the route.

post #18 of 22
Here in BC, Canada we have a no talk and text rule. I agree with it, but have wondered about looking at my iPhone's route Map.
Not surprisingly many ignore this rule and accidents caused by phone use are high. Even those not phoning while driving are affected, because they become frustrated by the poor driving of those on their phone.
So I pull over to the side of the road to look at the map and occasionally have looked at it while stopped in traffic, but never while moving because I can't also look at the traffic.
Even a built in GPS device can be distracting while driving.
I now also have a GPS map device, which I really can't use safely while driving. So again I mainly look at it when pulled over, or my wife looks at it for me. It's voice commands also do help.
The police have a problem in that they don't know what you are doing on your phone, but when stopped in traffic it should be OK.
post #19 of 22

I tried turn by turn voice with iPhone when it was first launched just to see if it could get me to my office, and it did, but I haven't used it again. I have a real nav system in my auto so that is what I use if I need it although, one nice thing about the iOS version is that the maps update automatically. To update your map data on a BMW they charge you $199.

 

I shudder to think that people would be looking down at that tiny screen while holding it in their hand just to keep it out of view of the Police. I see people holding phones all the time and it is disturbing to me how many people completely disregard the law, speeding, talking on a cell phone, kids without child seats, expired license plates, illegal left turns, rolling stops, no signal lane changes, illegally driving in the car pool lane, parking in handicap spaces etc. I'm sure all of these infractions are just  isolated cases and these people are all actually honorable upstanding citizens who don't cheat on their taxes, or surf facebook and youtube while at work, or keep secrets from their spouses. They are all totally responsible people except for the occasional accidental texting while driving, driving under the influence with an expired license and no insurance.


Edited by mstone - 2/28/14 at 4:52pm

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post #20 of 22
That's why European cars traditionally had no cup holders: try finishing a cup of coffee or a can of soda without staring at the headliner instead of on the street. Try doing that going 150mph on the German highway and you might as well preorder your coffin at Amazon before starting your trip...

Driving is a full-time job, sitting in a car is not sitting in the living room; Americans don't get that concept by and large.

If you want to drink, change your route, talk on the phone, text: pull over, stop, do your thing, then continue, or get yourself a chauffeur if you think you're so important that these things can't wait.

There are almost 10 times as many traffic deaths each year than 9/11 cost in lives; yet while trillions of dollars are squandered on a useless war on terrorism and civil liberties are curtailed in the name of safety; the (drunk, texting, reading, shaving, primping, etc.) terrorists driving on our roads continue to do so unimpeded.
post #21 of 22
If using the Apple Maps app for driving directions isn't a violation, it probably should be.
post #22 of 22
Originally Posted by edac2 View Post
If using the Apple Maps app for driving directions isn't a violation, it probably should be.

 

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