To anyone who's visiting California from another state, my advice is just to put the smartphone down. Seriously, learn to use Bluetooth or the USB connector if your car has one and just leave it alone. Don't even ask it for directions now.
It's now officially official that the use of a map app on your phone while driving is illegal in the state of California. TechCrunch wrote that it's an extension of the state's current texting-while-driving ban that went into effect into 2008.
It's based on a March ruling in a state appeals court after Steven Spriggs was cited in January 2012 by a California Highway Patrol officer who said Spriggs was looking down at the map on his phone while driving.
The ultimate decision in the ruling:
Because it is undisputed that (Spriggs) used his wireless telephone while holding it in his hand as he drove his vehicle, his conduct violated Vehicle Code section 23123, subdivision (a).
Basically he broke the California law that says you can't use your phone while driving without a hands-free device. Like trying to read a paper map and then folding it back up hasn't been distracting for 100 years?
OK, so you shouldn't be entering your destination while driving and trying to figure out which Coffee Bean you're supposed to meet your friend at. But with a little practice, the modern map app is relatively seamless and actually saves people from being distracted by trying to read illogically marked street signs or making abrupt lane changes because they realize they need to be in the far left lane in order to make their next turn.
If anything, making it illegal to touch your phone in any way while driving could force automakers to better integrate phone functions into these fancy infotainment systems they're pushing these days. Already, there are some that do quite well in this regard. It could also continue to drive down the cost of built-in nav units.
Until they ban the use of voice commands, which based on proposed legislation, is a plausible outcome.
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Milford Flathagen