Feeds

back to article Get lost, drivers: Google Maps is not for you – US judge

Checking Google Maps has been placed on the list of things you're not allowed to do while at the wheel – at least in the US. A court in California has ruled that accessing a GPS app on a mobile phone while driving is illegal. In January last year, plods pulled over Steven R. Spriggs and slapped him with a charge of driving …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Holmes

Actual Satnav units

Where does US law stand on accessing actual Satnav units - either built in, or third-party (suckered to the windscreen)?

I bet (from what I do know about the US law system) that that's legal, but if it's a piece of similar electronics called a "mobile phone", it's illegal.

7
3
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Actual Satnav units

Well, you apparently don't know much about US law. But not to worry, El Reg apparently knows just as little.

There are actually quite few US laws on the books about acceptable driving practices. There are probably thousands of state laws, however.

This article, for example, was about California law, not US law.

15
9
Silver badge

Re: Actual Satnav units

>"Where does US law stand on accessing actual Satnav units - either built in, or third-party (suckered to the windscreen)?"

What's funny is that 15 years ago, in order to navigate California's byzantine highway system, you had to have a giant paper map that you were folding and unfolding while trying to drive down the highway.

Now which do you think is more distracting? Using your phone as GPS, or trying to unfold the correct portion of a giant map and read the tiny writing to figure out where the hell you are? Personally, I find that I'm far more focused on the road when using the GPS on my phone.

4
7
Anonymous Coward

Luckily the

Policeman didn't check to thoroughly, he was actually watching a big boobie pron film at the time.

1
5
Silver badge

Re: Actual Satnav units

Hahaha, good one. Welcome to the rat hole California. We've got laws against nearly everything including the "GPS Windshield Safety Act" which effectively bans attaching anything to the windscreen of a modern automobile. The only place you can mount a GPS is in a 5"x5" square on the bottom corner of the driver's side or a 7" x 7" square on the opposite side. It might work if you have a '50s Caddy with a near vertical windscreen but if it has a rake like more modern autos forget about it. Essentially so long as it is mounted in a more dangerous position out of the line of sight of the driver, like under the dashboard, then it's ok to mount the GPS there. Logic and reason checked out a long time ago and they are never seen.

10
0
Bronze badge

Re: Actual Satnav units

@Eddy Ito: Dude, I'm not exactly a California fan, but California isn't alone in these ridiculous laws, not by a long shot. Also, no matter what I think about California, a "rat hole" it is certainly not! Maybe you've never been to Jersey, but I can confidently tell you California compared to Jersey is like comparing a castle to a basement, or maybe even literally a rat hole!

Anyways, like you think probably, I think the term "Mobile Phone" should just be deprecated and reworded to "Mobile Computer". There is a certain stigmata associated with a phone while driving, as there should be, but a phone is not what is being utilized while using GPS.

Side Note: With you, me, and everyone else here understanding that a mobile phone is really a mobile computer, how in the hell does a state like California not know that as well? Has Silicon Valley been removed/relocated? Of course, with a law like this put in place, think about the revenue increase from traffic violations...they would be tremendous!

4
0

Re: Actual Satnav units

Pretty much every built in sat nav system I've owned in the US all disable the keyboard and most touch screen input functions wile the vehicle is in motion. The Sync unit in my new Ford Truck allows for voice commands which I personally find a lot more distracting than a touch screen menu.

As for the portable ones and early laptop devices I have found some of them to lock up when moving more than 5-10 MPH while others do not. I find it interesting that it's still legal in some states to have the old hocky puck antennae hooked to a laptop with cables and power inverters run all over the front seat that you have to bend down to look at but you can't suction-cup a touch screen to the window.

Of course it varies state by state so please don't judge us all by the strangeness of California. :-) I always found it quite odd that in New Jersey it's illegal to pump your own gas until I caught an episode of Jersey Shore.... context makes a huge difference!

0
0
Silver badge

@MyBackDoor

Oh you don't understand politics out here (or maybe you do, all too well). The original purpose of the law was to allow Satnav units since they would have been completely illegal without it. This is Sacramento's way of "helping" folks out. As for how they can not know, it's pretty simple to figure out if you talk to any of the politicians long enough. Just don't talk to them too long, it's been known to lower intelligence and I think California politicians should come with a warning like "Known to cause idiocy in humans". We could make it an addendum to Prop 65 and call it a Prop 65 IQ label.

I have to give you Jersey. I've been through it several times and only stopped once for gas but that was only because I had to.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Actual Satnav units

California has long since turned into a police state, and most of their laws and regulations are in large part a way for communities to earn large amounts of cash. A new form of highway robbery made possible only by the heist and subversion of the United States Government.

U.S. Citizens are considered "property" of the United States and "things" i.e. a "legal persona" of the same status as any corporate entity under Admiralty (commerce) law. By this method, they can be subjected to all kinds of nonsense.

Its very similar to what the corrupt elite is doing in the UK and soon in the new EU dictatorship. In the EU, people will loose their real citizenships and become chattel of the EU, to whom common law won't apply.

They already cleared the way to use - for example - Italian military to put down an uprising in the Netherlands, since Netherlands soldiers may hesitate to shoot their countrymen. Addendums to the Lisbon contracts allow them to just shoot those people dead, no different from what Assad is being blamed for. The addendum and use of admiralty (commercial) law turns the "human rights" and "right to life" article into a farce.

Welcome to the corporate ruled world

0
4
WTF?

Re: Actual Satnav units

Cool movie; when's it out?

0
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: Actual Satnav units

wait..when did this happen?

I try to keep abreast of stupidity here in CA, more so than the average bear. And I did not know of this.

In fact, I'm in violation right now.

this shows the real problem-so many laws even the aware cannot keep up. And the hippies only protest weed laws making people criminals, while continuing to elect the same morons who got nothing better to do than make everyone a criminal without their knowledge.

as I type, I'm keeping mine in place in an act of "civil disobedience". Perhaps I'll use my illegally Center Low windshield suction cup mount as a holster....or worse, to mount a police recording dashcam!

either way thanks for the headsup, Eddy.

0
0

Re: Luckily the

Those pron films are the best!

0
0

Re: Actual Satnav units

Actually, we used to pull over to look at the map. And it wasn't that long ago. Still haven't upgraded to a gps smart phone, I print a google map from my pc before we leave and navigate for my husband. If he is driving alone, he pulls over to look at it or glances down at the large print handwritten directions for the exit #. I agree with the law banning any form of cell phone use while driving. I'm sick of people I know being in wrecks or dying.

1
1
Silver badge
Big Brother

I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

Just bring up the directions before you start driving. That's smart no matter which state you are driving in.

But this ruling is stupid if you aren't allowed to put your phone where you can see it to figure out which exit to take. California's highway system is hideous. You've got to be able to see some of the directions to figure out where to go.

(Big Brother - alive and well in California).

5
1
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

I guess that's an imperfect solution if your phone doesn't do turn-by-turn directions (as then it also won't correct itself if you miss a turning), and it's similarly possible you'll be caught using the phone for GPS if you've no way of routing the audio through your car speakers or if you just can't hear the instructions because it's California so obviously you've got a convertible.

Since the judge explicitly cited using your hands on the phone as the distraction, I guess mounting it within eyesight would be acceptable.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

>"I guess that's an imperfect solution if your phone doesn't do turn-by-turn directions"

No, it's got turn-by-turn. It's just that California highways are extremely nuts in the way they are laid out, often with two exits right on top of each other. Usually I've got to look directly at the screen a few times in order to figure out where I'm trying to go.

0
1

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

You can get 3 points on your licence in Britain for using a hand-held mobile phone, https://www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law

0
1
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

In this case, the driver was specifically holding the phone in his hand. Read the ruling on scribd (linked in the article), and you'll see that handsfree operation would have been fine (at least with respect to this particular law.)

2
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

>"In this case, the driver was specifically holding the phone in his hand."

But that's the problem - when I go to California, I'm in a rental car - I don't have a GPS holder on the dash. If I need to look at the GPS on the phone, I've got to pick it up in my hand, or find some spot by the cupholder where it will sit with a good viewing angle.

But if the California cops are so ticket-happy that they are pulling over people simply for having a phone in their hand, they should also go ahead and pull over all the people driving to work eating donuts and drinking coffee and putting on their lipstick (male or female), and smoking pot for that matter - plenty of that happening on the California freeways.

What really distracts me is all the motorcycle drivers who are allowed - by California law - to drive on the lane stripes in between cars. I'm always certain I'm going to end up seeing one of these guys getting killed someday.

1
5
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California @(Andy Prough)

Oh, I live in San Francisco right now so I'm fully aware of the California freeways — my favourite is when there's a central lane that divides without any discontinuity so that if you head to the left you're on one freeway and if you head to the right then you're on another. Naturally that divide often happens just after the crest of a hill, and quite a lot of the time it isn't even a real hill but just an artefact of the way that elevated portion of road was built. I can't think of anywhere in the UK where the same lane just suddenly divides like that, without one road explicitly being a junction off the other.

And that's just the junction-by-junction stuff, the overall layout is a nightmare in itself. While driving to Pacifica this weekend I naturally had to go 101 south, 380 west, 280 north then 1 south, making four freeways for a 25-ish minute journey to a reasonably popular destination.

2
0
Silver badge
Stop

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

"What really distracts me is all the motorcycle drivers who are allowed - by California law - to drive on the lane stripes in between cars"

In the UK it's called filtering and it is perfectly legal. When you say it "distracts" you, do you really mean it pisses you off because the biker isn't stuck in the traffic jam with you?

"I'm always certain I'm going to end up seeing one of these guys getting killed someday."

Make sure you signal and check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes and at least you can be more certain you won't be the one doing the killing.

15
4
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

>You can get 3 points on your licence in Britain for using a hand-held mobile phone,

As several papers pointed out at the time that legislation came in, it seems only to refer to mobile phones, with 'similar device' being a fuzzy term. There have been successful defences on the premise the driver was using their phone to record a voice memo.

However, as the Gov guidance notes, it is what the police officer at the time thinks is distracting. Like that driver who was prosecuted for holding an apple (the fruit) whilst driving.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California @(Andy Prough)

I can't think of anywhere in the UK where the same lane just suddenly divides like that, without one road explicitly being a junction off the other."

Driving south over the Tyne Bridge.

Two lanes become three. It's not at all obvious if that new middle lane belongs to the left splitting into two or the right lane splitting into two. There's lots of jockeying for position.

To add to the confusion, you stay in the right lane to to turn right at the second right, the middle lane to turn left and the left lane to go straight on because just over the next rise the left lane goes up and over the flyover while the middle lane turns left under it.

Remember above I mentioned the second right? If you wanted the first right you just missed it. You needed to be in the left lane to take the first right by turning left where you drive around the loop and back to the traffic light junction you just drove over.

Just to add to the confusion, there's three sets of traffic lights within about 100yds, the 3rd set being the new light controlled pedestrian crossing over one of the busiest roads in the area so as to give pedestrian access to the new Gateshead college from the main transport interchange. I think "bridge" would be the word I'd rather use, but, well, there isn't one.

1
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

>"In the UK it's called filtering and it is perfectly legal. When you say it "distracts" you, do you really mean it pisses you off because the biker isn't stuck in the traffic jam with you?"

No, I don't mind. Anyone that can get through the parking lot that is LA rush hour traffic, more power to them!

>"Make sure you signal and check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes and at least you can be more certain you won't be the one doing the killing."

I DO check - worries me a lot, the way they suddenly pop up on you. No - I'm worried I'll see one get killed right in front of me by someone who doesn't check their mirrors. Some of the bikers move at a reasonable pace between cars, but some are flying right along and would end up eating a lot of concrete if someone suddenly turned their car a few inches.

2
1

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

The technical term for this is "splitting lanes" and it's permissible because of the traffic jams and heat. Many motorcycles are air cooled and as such you have to maintain an airflow over them to keep them from seizing up and becoming expensive paperweights.

While you may not like it (and as a rider, I don't) it is legal in California. It's not in many other states that are a little more intelligent, but you still catch people from Cali doing it here as well and getting pissy when they get tickets for it

1
0

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

The big problem is that, to date, there's been no appeals to the crown court so its relying on the fairly varied judgement of magistrates to define 'using'.

This isn't a bad thing as such, but it means that there are a lot of prosecutions that are being succesfully defended on the basis of some fairly sketchy arguments. Equally, there're a lot of prosecutions going forward that shouldn't (some over zealous traffic officers extending the definition of handheld to units firmly affixed to cradles, for example).

0
0

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

If you say "California's highway system is hideous" because its ugly, I agree...

But driving all over it is cake and requires no Nav at all.

Something that happened a few days ago:

I was walking down the street, and some woman stood on the sidewalk, looking this way and that, making an impression of being lost. As I drew near, she asked me for help with the following words: "Do you know where number 52 is? My nav said its right here, but this is the wrong number!" I said: "did you check in which direction the house numbers go up or down on this street?" She replied: "no, but my nav said it was right here!!" She looked exasperated, like "how can this nav just be broken..."

So, I had to actually explain to her how to find the house number using her own brain.

And she didn't look like a dull, McDonalds eating, Fluoride contaminated water drinking zombie, to the contrary, she looked bright and educated.

Makes you wonder if we've not gone way too far on our tech craze...

4
0
Mushroom

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

"when I go to California, I'm in a rental car - I don't have a GPS holder on the dash."

I think it's pretty fair to say that this is your problem.

"If I need to look at the GPS on the phone, I've got to pick it up in my hand"

You really don't. You need to have sorted it out before you set off.

Not to make it sound black and white, but you are the one in control of the x tonne vehicle capable of doing serious amounts of damage, it is your job to stay in control of it. Everything else is secondary.

If you get the first part wrong, someone could die (possibly you); if you get the second part wrong, you might get to your destination late.

4
2
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

But that's the problem - when I go to California, I'm in a rental car - I don't have a GPS holder on the dash. If I need to look at the GPS on the phone, I've got to pick it up in my hand, or find some spot by the cupholder where it will sit with a good viewing angle.

Or rent the right kind of car. Or fix a detachable holder. Or any number of things apart from "ignore the law and break it because it doesn't apply to me, I'm special".

5
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

Unfortunately it doesn't stop the idiots I see doing 100Mph down the motorway while holding a mobile phone to their ears, usually its BMW drivers....

0
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California @(Andy Prough)

> And that's just the junction-by-junction stuff, the overall layout is a nightmare in itself. While driving to

> Pacifica this weekend I naturally had to go 101 south, 380 west, 280 north then 1 south,

And just to add to the fun, directions like North or South refer to the immediate small section of road you're about to enter, not to the road in general. Central Expressway goes generally in a north-south direction, but for a short bit in the middle it is s-shaped and runs east-west, so when you want to get onto it to head generally northerly, you may need to know if you want Central East or West.

Planning ahead with a map is the only reliable option.

2
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

>"Not to make it sound black and white, but you are the one in control of the x tonne vehicle capable of doing serious amounts of damage, it is your job to stay in control of it."

Never had an accident in 30+ years of driving, so your implication that I can't control a vehicle is a bit absurd by the simple evidence. Save that talk for your 16 year-old child.

My point is that there is a sane way to design highway systems, and then there is the California way of designing highway systems. At some point, nearly all drivers on those freeways are going to have to check a phone or a GPS or a map or a printed set of directions, and even then you are likely to miss an exit or misunderstand a highway intersection. I think one poster got it right - this is not about highway safety, this is about cops trying to raise a few extra bucks for their debt-burdened municipalities.

1
4

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

"she looked bright and educated."

Might be, you misunderstood what she asked you for. :)

0
0
Flame

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

"Never had an accident in 30+ years of driving, so your implication that I can't control a vehicle is a bit absurd by the simple evidence."

Not that I implied such a thing, I merely said that it was your responsibility to be in control.

And 30+ years or 100+ years, it only takes a few seconds for someone to pull out in front of you at high speed to cause an accident, and it won't matter whose fault it is if someone is seriously injured.

The default position I have when driving is to assume the other drivers are about to do something stupid (and I see enough doing things like high speed undertaking or sitting in blindspots). Driving is not a right.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: I always use my phone for Google's GPS when I'm in California

The default position I have when driving is to assume the other drivers are about to do something stupid

They usually are. In my experience at any given moment on the road at least one driver within 50 yards is always about to do something stupid. Anticipating the stupid is one of the essential skills of a safe driver.

2
0
Silver badge

Even the GPS apps, all of them I've ever used anyway, tell you not to operate them while on the road. You're supposed to bring up the maps and set your destination while parked. That way you don't have to touch them while driving, thereby avoiding any trouble with the law.

4
0
Silver badge
WTF?

How about using a display stuck to the windshield?

Y'know, like 90% of Tom-toms?

1
0
Bronze badge
Devil

Sometimes US Judges act like idiots just to prove a point

This ruling should be overturned if it was appealed to somone who does not want to think past the end of his/her nose.

When is a phone not a phone? When it is being used as a GPS device, ( a dedicated GPS is legal to use in almost every state except the land of dumb twats..California)

2
3

Re: Sometimes US Judges act like idiots just to prove a point

The issue from how I read it isn't that he was using it as a GPS, but he was holding the phone, and using it while driving. That is illegal where I live too(no where near California), and can be met with a $250 ticket if I remember it right.

Now if he would have secured it to the windshield or somewhere else, and not had it in his hands he would have been fine. Honestly he was more likely texting while driving than using it as a GPS IMO if he had to hold it in his hands, even if he was setting coordinates in a GPS he should have pulled over, and done it, not do it while moving. A idiot like this deserves the ticket, and like some of the other posts I saw I agree they should reword it to any mobile device not just phones.

1
1
Bronze badge
Devil

Re: Sometimes US Judges act like idiots just to prove a point

The thrust of my comment revolved around the fact that when a law is not what it should be, some judges will take an unreasonable position to force the law to make a more finite decision upon appeal.

IE "When is a phone not a phone, when it is a gps" The article did not completely clarify all the details.

This is not a reading comprehension forum but a place for commentartds to speak their opinions

1
0
Boffin

But it is a phone!

G Maps has to connect to the web, via the phone system, to access mapping system - so it is still a phone.

Now if you had a Nokia, you can download maps, turn off WiFi, Data, and phone. Now it's not a phone, you might be able to argue.

2
2

Re: But it is a phone!

The first time I was out in SF for classes, I took my Magellan GPS and it worked great. When I went out a year later I thought that since my Blackberry had a few nice navigation programs I would use it instead. It turned out it was worthless, because my roaming connection never had decent data, so the apps rarely worked.

0
1
FAIL

Re: But it is a phone!

G Maps connects to the Internet (not the web), via the data connection on the smallish tablet device - that also happens to have a phone app (from the Greek meaning 'voice sound'). Currently, all common carrier mobile communications systems in California (and the US) use separate communications connections for voice and data.

So, the device is not using the "phone system" to access the mapping system.

Neither is it always a "phone". The phone app and voice communications connection can both be disabled or removed entirely - while the data connection and mapping/navigation app function properly.

These devices are really mobile computers with a phone app and voice connectivity.

0
2
Silver badge

Re: But it is a phone!

>"When I went out a year later I thought that since my Blackberry had a few nice navigation programs I would use it instead. It turned out it was worthless, because my roaming connection never had decent data, so the apps rarely worked."

Good old Blackberry

0
1

"So next time you're lost in the States, ask a policeman for directions, since being really, really good at multitasking while at the wheel is unlikely to be a valid defence."

No, just pull off the road and stop then check your gadgets.

2
1
FAIL

uhuh

Yeah you try and pull over on a 12 lane freeway where all the cars drive at random speeds between 5 and 100 mph before you run out of space to get off on the correct and only intersection...

2
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: uhuh

between 5 & 100? No minimum speed?

I also note the poster DIDN'T say "stop on a 12 lane highway".

2
1
Pint

Re: uhuh

You realize, of course, that outside of Chicago and Los Angeles, there are relatively few 12 lane freeways... But the six lane Eastshore Freeway (I-80) between Richmond and the San Francisco Bay Bridge makes up for some of the lack... especially at rush hour.

Where's that da** wine glass?

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: uhuh

>"between 5 & 100? No minimum speed? I also note the poster DIDN'T say "stop on a 12 lane highway".

You obviously haven't spent much time on California's interesting road system.

Oh - and, pull over to the side? What side? You mean the 6 inches between your car and the construction zone (that has been under construction for the past 20 years)? Yeah, that's going to work out real well.

1
1

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.