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Western state sets a controversial driver distraction precedent

In the land of electric vehicles and honey, aka the nation's most populous state, California, controversy is brewing over distracted driving.

The Appellate Division Superior Court for the County of Fresno, Calif. made a controversial driver distraction ruling [PDF] this week, when it stiffened its ban on in-car smartphone use, banning motorists from looking at maps on their mobile devices while driving.

California, like most states allows motorists to consult paper-maps while driving -- a distraction that's considered dangerous, but at times necessary to motorists.  However, the exact same act on the a mobile device -- which arguably take less finger dexterity -- is verboten.

Distracted driving
This is okay, but using your smartphone is not. [Image Source: Petersen's 4 Wheel]

To be fair, the presiding Judge F. Brian Alvarez acknowledges that this cognitive dissonance between non-digital and digital uses exists in his ruling.  However, he says that the 2008 law passed by California's state legislature and the follow-up 2012 hands-free bill are explicit -- no manual interaction with digital devices of any kind can be performed while driving.

He suggests that the Californian legislature review the issue and possibly modify the law.

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The decision isn't entirely catastrophic to motorists; barring reversal from the legislature, the ruling still leaves drivers with some legal options.  Drivers can use hands free smartphone navigation software (which many phones now come with), although interacting with the device other than by voice is strictly illegal.  California also allows automated self-driving cars, although they are not yet widely commercially available.

And of course there's one other option for California's motorists -- a good old-fashioned map.

Source: The Appelate Division Superior Court for the County of Fresno, Calif.

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"I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Ammohunt on 4/8/2013 2:09:37 PM , Rating: 5
My aura smiles and never frowns! Soon i will be president!"

Dumbass law 14,398; Reason 20,541 to not live in California.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By retrospooty on 4/8/2013 2:15:29 PM , Rating: 4
"Dumbass law 14,398; Reason 20,541 to not live in California."

Exactly. I was born and raised there, lived there most of my life, but left 8 years ago when the wife and I had our first kid. We just didnt want to bring a child up in that idiotic environment. Other than the weather and some great natural wonders, the place is a sh%$hole.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Ammohunt on 4/8/2013 4:00:40 PM , Rating: 4
Its shame really its a beautiful state! I wish it were only sensible people leaving California to come here to Colorado but alias the same people that screwed up California are coming here turn us into Colofornia.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By retrospooty on 4/8/2013 5:31:09 PM , Rating: 3
LOL... We have alot of the same thing going on here in Calizona.

It is a shame... And its not like its "most" of the people. Most people in CA are totally cool, down to earth, normal people that go to work, raise their kids, do thier thingand contribute to society like everyone else. Its the old 5% rule. 5% of the people ruin it for the other 95%... In CA, its more like 10 to 90. Which is really bad. Double assholes = unacceptable.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Bad-Karma on 4/8/2013 8:51:42 PM , Rating: 4
True, although I've always heard it as the Pareto Principle:

The law of the vital few, states that, "For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."

Or in this case 80% of California's issues stem from just 20% of the population.

I too noticed the influx of Californians when I was living in Tucson. They drove the home prices way out of wack. They'd buy up anything because it was cheaper than back in Cali. There were actually whole tracks of beautiful 500+K homes sitting abandoned (never finished) out in the desert where a Californian developer started the project then realized too late that there was no access to water for the communities.

Funny run in with a Cali idiot......
I refused to swerve and ran over a rabbit near the base of Mt. Lemmon close to my home. Had a lady in a Cali tag'd BMW follow me about a 1/2 mile and into my driveway. She was at my car window yelling at me for how insensitive I was to that poor animal. When I opened the door and she saw me in my flightsuit she launched into how " my insinsitivity was typical and how I was such a bad person for being in the military."

It was actually really funny, and I let her rant until she saw that in my hands, I was holding my Sig Sauer (still in it's holster)along with other things I was taking inside. She threw up her hands and screamed that I was threatening her and ran back to her car (still screaming) and drove off. Cops came a few minutes later. They laughed at the whole thing and went about their day, while I got a funny story out of it.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Samus on 4/9/2013 12:04:55 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah the nice weather always attracts the nutty politicians. California, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois...

Ohh wait...

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By docawolff on 4/8/2013 4:49:12 PM , Rating: 4
Wow! I thought me and my wife were the only ones to flee California! You are right--great weather, but the people's attitude prompted us to flee rather than raise kids there.

Funny story: We lived in San Diego. We would frequently hear:

"San Diego is America's Finest City."

We would respond:

"Oh? What other cities have you lived in?"

"None. Why?"

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By retrospooty on 4/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By TheEinstein on 4/8/2013 9:28:10 PM , Rating: 2
Oh it is worse.

If you were stupid and bought a house in California and wish to move out lf the State and sell your home...

Be prepared to lose huge. They will tax you hard but offer a major reduction if you buy another house in California.

It is how they plan to entrap as many from fleeing as possible.

Damned if you do, damned if you dont.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Ammohunt on 4/9/2013 1:20:04 PM , Rating: 2
This is why there are huge tracts of houses sitting empty in cities that have gone bankrupt the bank owns those houses now so much for their tax scheme just adds misery on top of misery.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By Nutzo on 4/9/2013 2:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
That's the main problem, you lived near San Francisco which is the center of most of California's problems.

Lucky I live in South Orange County which is one of the more conservative areas of the state, so we are somewhat shielded from the worse of what is happening.

Even though I'm a native, I just hope I can hold out for several more years until I can retire and move out of state.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By invidious on 4/8/2013 4:57:51 PM , Rating: 2
Starting to feel the same way about Connecticut.

RE: "I am Governor Jerry Brown!
By SPOOFE on 4/8/2013 4:41:02 PM , Rating: 2
Only 20,541?

By Dorkyman on 4/8/2013 2:42:42 PM , Rating: 2
Does this mean that if I am driving in California with a smartphone in a windshield mount and it's showing a GPS moving map, that I'll get a citation? Surely it can't mean that--after all, one also interacts with a Garmin or TomTom GPS unit.

Grew up in SoCal, owned homes there, worked there, but left in 1990. What a joke of a state now. Only reasons to visit now are (a) visit relatives and (b) eat a Double-double with grilled onions at In-n-Out. Best burger in the world.

RE: Busted?
By SPOOFE on 4/8/2013 4:42:50 PM , Rating: 3
Does this mean that if I am driving in California with a smartphone in a windshield mount and it's showing a GPS moving map, that I'll get a citation?

No, unless you're physically interacting with it: Holding it, caressing it, fondling it, no matter how lovingly.

RE: Busted?
By tng on 4/8/2013 8:06:22 PM , Rating: 2
...a Double-double with grilled onions at In-n-Out. Best burger in the world.
I thought so to but on the East Coast they have burger places called Five Guys and they are fantastic, not sure which is better In and Out or Five Guys.

RE: Busted?
By Akrovah on 4/9/2013 11:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
Five Guys without a doubt. We have them here in Cali now (did I jsut admit to something bad?) and Five Guys kicks the snot out of In and Out in every way possible, with the exception of Five Guys not having Milk Shakes. At least not here.

But the Burgers and fries? Far superior. Plus I love that it starts plain and you tell them what you want instead of having to have them remove a bunch aof crap first to get at what you are looking for on your burger.

By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 1:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
This is stupid and good luck proving I interacted with my map while driving.

You figure they would rather have someone tapping the screen a few times to to choose/change route rather than having a huge piece of paper slapping you in the face.

RE: Sooo....
By lagomorpha on 4/8/2013 2:28:12 PM , Rating: 3
Possible explanation: Generation gap. Even though GPS devices have been available a number of years, a lot of law makers are of a generation that would have never come across the newfangled contraptions. Personally I'm under 30 and a bit confused about this technology that they kept legal. A (I think I'm spelling this correctly) map? What sort of hardware does it run on?

RE: Sooo....
By inighthawki on 4/8/2013 4:19:18 PM , Rating: 2
While I know a lot of people who try to fiddle with phones, GPSs, etc while driving, I've never met a single person who has tried to read a map while doing so.

While it's silly that it is considered legal to do so, it's simply not done in practice these days.

I never understood these laws
By ebakke on 4/8/2013 3:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Why do we need different laws for every type of distracted driving? Speeding. Eating. Texting. Talking. Maps. Too many friends in the car (or other "graduated driver's licensing" restrictions). Drinking. Other drugs.

Stupid. If you're not paying attention and you harm someone else, you should be punished and be liable for whatever harm you caused. The end. I won't feel any better or worse if someone hits me while texting vs if they hit me while reaching in the back seat to smack their kid. Regardless of which specific thing was distracting to that individual, me and my property are still damaged.

RE: I never understood these laws
By Rukkian on 4/9/2013 11:20:51 AM , Rating: 2
While I understand part of your argument - why do we need to have seperate laws when distracted driving should be one offense, I do not agree with the other part. The laws try to bring attention to get people to stop the stupidity before they injure or kill somebody. Nobody listens, but tha is besides the point.

RE: I never understood these laws
By ebakke on 4/9/2013 6:39:50 PM , Rating: 2
If no one listens, then why bother?

It has nothing to do with distraction...
By djcameron on 4/8/2013 4:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
The real reason they are passing these idiotic laws is for purposes of revenue generation. All a cop needs to do is say he saw you looking down at something, and you'll get a ticket. Instant revenue!

By Nutzo on 4/9/2013 2:28:33 PM , Rating: 2
Basically this ruling is because some people where using the GPS/MAP argument to fight their cell phone tickets, and the state doesn’t like anything cutting into their revenue schemes.

With this ruling, there is no argument you can use if caught holding your cell phone while sitting in your car (even if you were just moving it from your pocket to the seat. Even if you are sitting at a stop light, or parked at the curb with the car running, you will get a ticket.

Worse than that, a bill was just introduced to make it almost impossible to fight red light camera tickets in California. It was authored by a Democrat who received significant campaign contributions from a couple red light camera companies. No conflict of interest there :(

By ERROR666 on 4/8/2013 3:06:32 PM , Rating: 2
Good luck to them.. I hope other states don't follow this. Like all other cell phone laws, you can just ignore them, but it does show the way this stupid state is.

Government creativity!
By StanO360 on 4/8/2013 3:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
If we could just get energy from nonsense the government would be self-supporting!

So you could use an iPod, or GPS, or a camera, a recorder, a walkie-talkie or CB, but not a cell phone.

So.... No change?
By BillyBatson on 4/8/2013 9:26:52 PM , Rating: 2
It was always illegal to touch your phone any way because of the no txting law. If a cop pulls you over for suspected txting and you use the excuse "I'm sorry officer but I wasn't txting I was looking at my map and changing the podcast" was never an excuse. Even just holding your locked phone in your hand and holding the steering wheel at the same time is a ticket, this "law" is just making sure no one uses this excuse in court any more because it was never allowed in the first place.

judge is an IDIOT
By mrmike1949 on 4/9/2013 2:14:25 AM , Rating: 2
key point - law specifically says "telephone", but the "smart" phone is actually multiple devices in one case : music player, camera, video player, GPS, internet browser, AND it is also a telephone AND a text messaging system.

Using it as a telephone or text messaging system are the only uses actually forbidden by law

frigging Fresno farmer moron of a judge

By Paj on 4/9/2013 7:54:01 AM , Rating: 2
Nice use of subtle racism in the image and text. Quality journalism.

What if...
By shabby on 4/9/2013 10:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
im touching the touch screen on my ford to change the temperature settings? Or will the cop think im playing with the gps?

Liberals Are Retarded Confirmed
By Arsynic on 4/8/13, Rating: 0
sounds fair
By raddude9 on 4/8/13, Rating: -1
RE: sounds fair
By mm2587 on 4/8/2013 2:17:40 PM , Rating: 2
you have certainly never tried to read a paper map while driving then. It is much more difficult to read and follow a paper map then most modern GPS/navigation devices.

RE: sounds fair
By raddude9 on 4/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: sounds fair
By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 2:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
obviously you are really old or do not know how to efficiently use google navigation on a smartphone.

This is how easy it is.
tap nav app
choose voice then say "Pentagon City Mall"
phone creates best route depending on setting
I follow route

The only other time I touch it is to zoom out to check traffic ahead. If traffic is bad, it is literally 3 taps or less to reroute. Or you can just turn and the map auto reroute.

In fact, the navigation system is so easy and convenient to use that even my mom who's 60 knows how to use it.

The last time I used paper map, I have to constantly stop. With the road system being stupid complex now along with constant construction, I can't see why that is ever a good idea over a digital map that updates every day if it needs to.

RE: sounds fair
By Argon18 on 4/8/2013 3:27:23 PM , Rating: 3
P-city mall?? Do you live in Arlington, VA? ME TOO! HIGH FIVE!

RE: sounds fair
By raddude9 on 4/8/2013 7:33:56 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, not really old, I just don't use maps or GPS, my sense of direction is just that good. I don't think people should be using maps or gps while driving, people are bad enough drivers as it is.

RE: sounds fair
By Reclaimer77 on 4/8/2013 10:23:16 PM , Rating: 1
Having a good "sense of direction" means jack shit if you have no idea where you're at or where you're going.

Seriously come on, I have a good sense of direction too, but I'm not going to sit here and boast I know ever road, every street, every place in the entire country by heart!

RE: sounds fair
By BRB29 on 4/9/2013 7:46:59 AM , Rating: 2
sounds like you've never lived in a big city. You've never have to idle for hours in traffic because you did not take that detour since you don't know traffic ahead. You've never lived in a city where there's more roads and constant constructions than any human brain can remember.

So you think that a GPS nav device that can get people to where they need to be is bad in a city where traffic is terrible? You would think that getting people there and off the road to relieve traffic congestion is a good idea. I would also think that having my phone tell me when to turn and having a glance at my interactive map is much safer than someone sitting in the passenger seat guessing where I am and telling me inaccurate info. I KNOW it's definitely better than me trying to drive and read a huge map in lap.

RE: sounds fair
By Nutzo on 4/9/2013 2:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
And if you get caught doing any of that, even if sitting stopped at a light, you will get a ticket.

However, you can eat lunch, comb your hair, read a newspaper, turn around an yell at the kids, etc. and you don't have to worry.

RE: sounds fair
By Solandri on 4/8/2013 2:28:02 PM , Rating: 3
I disagree. The GPS tracks my current location. I don't have to look for it, it's already there. I only touch the GPS for things like checking traffic, or if I want to see driving stats.

It's actually the paper map which requires more of my attention, since I have to figure out where on the map I'm at. So your analogy is backwards - the paper map is more like the computer, requiring my constant attention in order for me to use it. While the GPS is like the TV which just displays stuff with me occasionally changing channels.

The only time the GPS requires more attention is if you're programming in or searching for a new destination. Ideally that's done before you start driving. But with my Android phone it's just a long-press of the search button and me saying "navigate to blah blah blah". Which is actually less distracting than searching for new destination on a paper map and plotting driving directions in my head.

RE: sounds fair
By Argon18 on 4/8/2013 3:25:37 PM , Rating: 1
I agree as well, a device you have to look at to interact with is more of a distraction than a piece of paper. That said, you should never take your eyes off the road. Someone attempting to drive while looking at a paper map, is just as much of an idiot as the guy who is texting or using a touch-screen GPS map.

This brings to light another related issue, the controls for the car, GPS, phone, or any electronic device you use while driving (or cycling, or anything really). This recent movement away from physical switches, knobs, and buttons, to a touchscreen.

The problem with a touch screen, is that it requires you to look at it, in order to operate it. Not just a casual glance either, you have to really look at it and focus your attention. That's fine when you're sitting on your living room couch with the iPad, but it's potential disaster while driving on the road. The tactile feedback of buttons, switches, and knobs, allows you to actuate them without looking - you can feel with your fingers that you've got the right one, and you can feel the selection as you actuate it. No need to look.

Of course a touchscreen has more geek electronic tech appeal, so expect to see more of them, even at the expense of your (and my) safety.

RE: sounds fair
By MrBungle123 on 4/8/2013 7:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
so some paper atlas that covers up most of the dashboard controls for the vehicle and requires you to look down is better than a GPS unit on the dash that will still let you track the road with peripheral vision and doesn't obstruct things like the steering wheel and gear shifter is more dangerous?

RE: sounds fair
By Nfarce on 4/8/2013 7:34:28 PM , Rating: 2
Just call it California politician logic. They are all a little "off" out there when it comes to common sense and logical thinking.

RE: sounds fair
By DalisMoustache on 4/9/2013 1:05:14 AM , Rating: 1
This article strikes me as MAAN for a variety of reasons. And I'm not too surprised your post was downrated despite being largely correct.
As I understand it people who use GPS are typically less effective at route-finding and spatial recognition versus more traditional means:
People who use GPS devices will typically be less skilled at the general task of wayfinding and navigation. This means their with-GPS versus without-GPS experiences will probably have significantly different outcomes, challenges, and stresses thus reinforcing their pro-GPS bias.
Add to that this article and your post challenging that learned and reinforced GPS bias. A typical reaction will then be to judge first (downrate) and rationalize afterwards.
People, your heuristics are failing you.
Specifically to Reclaimer77, it's called looking at a map before you go. It's not some eldritch wiccan thing.

RE: sounds fair
By Rukkian on 4/9/2013 11:31:06 AM , Rating: 2
So maybe you have a photgraphic memory, but when I have to get somewhere 100 miles away on some backroad in the middle of nowhere, there is no way I can look at a map one time before I leave my house and know every turn I have to make. This is just one example.

If you know your area and know basically where you have to get to, then sure looking at a map once before you leave can work. If you are going somewhere in an area you have never been, it is not very efficient to try and wing it.

RE: sounds fair
By Nutzo on 4/9/2013 2:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
You basically describe me vs the wife.

I have a good sense of direction and rarely use GPS, unless I'm going somewhere I haven't been before. If it's somewhere local, I'll just look it up on Google maps and remember the basic route/cross streets, no need for GPS.

On the other hand, my wife uses her GPS all the time, even when going to places she has been to many times. She has a poor sense of direction and would be lost without her GPS.

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