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Driving and Using Your Phone: Even If It’s Legal, Should You Do It?


California is well-known as a state with restrictive rules regarding cellphone use in the car. Talking without the use of a hands-free device is prohibited, and texting while driving is not allowed. There are additional restrictions for young drivers, bus drivers, and select other motorists.

A recent court ruling stands in contrast to these laws. The case involved a man who was using a GPS map on his phone and was ticketed when a police officer noticed him doing so. Such activity is not specifically outlawed by California statutes, so the man took his case all the way California’s 5th District Court of Appeal – and won. This clarified state law and made it clear that not all uses of mobile phones are prohibited.

Court Ruling Does Not Remove Safety Issues

Despite this ruling, an important question needs to be asked: just because you can use your phone for GPS and other purposes, should you? Distracted driving accidents continue to remain on the rise, injuring and killing more people with each passing year.

In this blog from December 2012, we discuss a study that found surfing the web on mobile phones was on track to out-pace texting as a leading cause of distracted driving accidents.

Confusion and Practical Considerations Mean Tickets are Still Issued and Paid.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that law enforcement officers may not be up-to-date on recent changes in the law caused by court decisions such as those referenced earlier in this post. An article in the California Journal looks at the situation of a man who was issued a ticket for checking the GPS on his phone, even though the previously mentioned ruling was already in effect. The man decided to just pay the fine; even though he knew he had done nothing wrong, the expense of fighting the ticket outweighed the benefits of getting the ticket dismissed.