August 15, 2016
Most everyone knows that texting and driving is dangerous, and it is often illegal in many states. It has taken some time, but the laws of many states are finally starting to catch up with modern technology. It is specifically illegal to use a hand held cellphone while driving in many places, and other states often prosecute drivers under laws against distracted driving. However, it is starting to become apparent that there are some limitations to these types of a laws. For instance, in a landmark case in California, an appellate court has ruled that drivers can use their phones in certain situations after all.
The revolutionary California case started after Steven Spriggs got a $165 ticket for using the map on his iPhone while he was stuck in traffic. Since he was stuck in traffic and not moving at the time, Spriggs did not think that the ticket was appropriate. He decided to fight the ticket and appealed multiple times. On final appeal in the Fresno County Superior Court, the judging panel determined that the laws only banned drivers from making calls with a handheld phone or texting while driving. In their ruling, they mentioned that the laws were an outdated law from 2006, when GPS capabilities for cell phones were far more limited. Therefore, it was determined that Spriggs was not guilty of violating any laws. The judges also called for a rewritten version of California laws that are less vague and allow drivers to use their phones for reasonable purposes while stopped in traffic or at traffic signals.
So far, California is the only state that has specifically made it legal for drivers to use their smartphone maps. Many states have vague laws about using a handheld cellular device, texting, or being otherwise distracted while driving. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arizona and Montana are the only states that do not specifically prohibit texting or using a handheld device. Therefore, it is generally wise for drivers to avoid using their cell phone maps as they drive, but it may be possible for some drivers to avoid fines or other punishments for using a cellphone map.
The legal experts at Consumer Reports suggest that the best way to avoid any sort of charges for using a cell phone while driving is to find a way to convert your device to a hand free device. For example, mounting your phone on the dashboard and controlling it with voice activated commands may be a better option. Even if you do not live in California where it is now legal for drivers to use a mapping app as they drive, a mounted GPS device is generally a legal practice.
All of the shifting laws about cell phone usage that vary from state to state can make it difficult to know your legal rights. If you or someone you know is involved in a similar case, the support of a professional law firm is often invaluable. The changing laws surrounding phone usage while driving may help you avoid repercussions for using a cell phone map while driving a vehicle. An experienced DC car accident lawyer may be able to assist you in getting the best possible outcome for your case. Call or contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into the potential legal implications of using your cell phone while driving.