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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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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.


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