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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 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.


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