While California has some of the strongest distracted driving laws in the
country, there are still a lot of grey areas. Most recently, a California
court found that using a navigation application while driving does not
violate the state Vehicle Code.
Steven Spriggs was issued a traffic citation after a California Highway
Patrol Officer observed him holding his cell phone. Spriggs was using
the device to check a map application for a way around traffic congestion.
Spriggs was ticketed for violating Vehicle Code section 23123, subdivision
(a). It prohibits drivers from “using a wireless telephone unless
that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free
listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.”
Spriggs argued that he did not violate the distracted driving statute because
he was not talking on the telephone. The Fifth District Court of Appeal
agreed. It ruled that “the Legislature intended the statute to only
prohibit the use of the wireless telephone to engage in a conversation
while driving unless the telephone is used in a hands-free manner.”
As this case highlights, distracted driving laws are having a difficult
time keeping pace with technology. In a similar case, a California judge
recently ruled that wearing Google Glass did not violate a law prohibiting
drivers from viewing monitors while operating a motor vehicle.