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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 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?


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