back to article Yes: You CAN use your phone as a satnav while driving – appeals court

An appeals court in California has told drivers they can view maps on a smartphone while driving. The ruling was handed down on Thursday by the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, in Fresno – and reverses an earlier case against a man, Steven Spriggs, who was given a ticket for looking at a map on his mobe. California …

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Silver badge

A test case perhaps?

I suspect the wise folks in the State Legislature will now re-write the law to either something more generic or more encompassing. I'm sure there's someone (or lots of someones) who are going to start screaming about "think of the children and carnage that will ensue if you don't banish this".

Although in this case, he was stopped and not moving, therefore not driving technically. So I guess they'll change the law to "being behind the wheel with an electronic wireless communication device in view" so such?

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Silver badge

Re: A test case perhaps?

Maybe the law should say 'using a device while being held in your hand'.

Firstly it would encompass a fair amount of deviant behaviour and secondly it would be less than distracting to remove it from your trousers, or pockets.

Why would you drive somewhere using a satnav, leaving the said device in you pocket?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A test case perhaps?

Luckily he wasn't using Apple Maps, he'd really be lost then.

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Re: A test case perhaps?

Secondly it would immediately make a lot of on the road police communication illegal due to them needing to use a walkie talkie.

I seem to rememer there here was a case in the UK where the police were trying to convict a lorry driver for using a CB Radio while driving, and when the defence lawyer started the cross examination of the police officer that arrested the driver, he opened with a question like "And once you identified that the defendant was using a CB Radio how did you report this to home base?". At which point the judge interrupted and said that they were going to dismiss the case at that point as they didn't want to be setting the wrong precedent (I can't find the news article now)

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Bronze badge

Re: A test case perhaps?

it would immediately make a lot of on the road police communication illegal due to them needing to use a walkie talkie.

Not necessarily. The usual reason for police exceptions is their being specifically trained and able to carry out such tasks that a mere mortal cannot.

Sensible laws will not be purely technical offences but usually have some 'greater good' defence that absolves or mitigates any crime; "Yes, I was using a mobile phone in a car, but to call emergency services to save the lives of others". That's also the grounds against creating purely technical offences in the first place as there are circumstances where absolute illegality would be perverse.

This case would presumably have parallels with "watching a TV" when that TV was acting as a Sat Nav display, where one is illegal the other is not; a question of when a TV ceases to be a TV and removes it from criminalisation.

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Silver badge

Well I hope it will still be legal to have a cell phone on a stand showing directions on Google maps.

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Anonymous Coward

How was the ticket even upheld once??

Looking at a map CLEARLY isn't addressed by the quoted law. Anybody who can read at a 3rd grade level can see that. Who was the judge?

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Devil

Re: How was the ticket even upheld once??

This is California, the state that loves to tell people what NOT to do.

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Lawmakers huh?

A group of people who would never allow common sense, logic, practicality or even need to get in the way of a verbose knee-jerk piece of legislation.

and no....they are not limited to one country, more's the pity.

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Silver badge

Re: Lawmakers huh?

Here in Louisiana they put a law on the books some years ago banning posting to Facebook while driving ... they recently had to amend it after a number of prosecution case failed because the drivers showed that they were posting to Tumblr and Twitter, not Facebook.

"If you've got half a mind to run for Public Office, that's all you need" - David Frost.

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Re: Lawmakers huh?

So you know you could just claim to be using something like bufferapp surely? You scheduled your social media sends before setting out. Or you wrote your own script to do it etc... so many loopholes its crazy!

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Anonymous Coward

Not in the UK.....

As you can be libelled with 'Driving a vehicle whilst using a mobile phone' or 'Driving a vehicle whilst using a handheld DEVICE' and that has been tried as a defence in this country and the stated case exists to say it doesn't matter; you hold a device whilst driving, you get 3 points and £100 fine Fixed Penalty Notice or go to court and get found guilty and receive a penalty higher than the original ticket.

Don't risk it for a biscuit kids, it ain't smart, it ain't big. Fifteen years ago if you wanted to phone someone you had to wait until you were back home or had 10p for the phonebox. Why people can't go a simple car journey without having to talk on a phone is beyond me and is a great example of how we as a civilisation have failed to protect our own time and our own private space with all manner of creations designed to intrude on our free time.

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Re: Not in the UK.....

It's all very well not allowing it while driving. Seems sensible enough and then you get prosecuted after being stationary in a traffic jam for 15 minutes and you call someone to let them know you will be late. Doesn't seem so sensible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not in the UK.....

Well, as a cop, I can say I've never done someone for sitting in a queue of traffic on their phone.

Whilst the legal definition of driving is:

"A person shall be held to be driving a vehicle when they have control over the direction and speed of the vehicle"

which means basically, if you are sat in the driver seat, engine on or off, you're driving that vehicle (Stated cases again uphold this point), it's only an utter bastard who'd do someone for it.

However, considering the Police is all about targets and figures now, sometimes it's not so hard to use common sense when effectively your job is on the line and bills have to be paid.

In that scenario, it's not the cops fault, it's the heirarchy and the councils and finally the government for demanding so much.

(Didn't really make the news that we've just had all our public holidays taken away from us without consultation. Two a year, Christmas and New year, that's it.)

Erp forgot my point. /endrant

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Re: Not in the UK.....

Move to Canada and join one of the police departments here. I've met quite a few officers from the UK and they seem quite happy with the working conditions, other than the weather (-30 deg C at the moment).

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Bronze badge

Re: Not in the UK.....

Are you 'in control of the speed and direction' while stopped in a traffic jam ? You can't change direction without moving and your speed is forced to be zero.

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Re: Not in the UK.....

> Whilst the legal definition of driving is:

>

> "A person shall be held to be driving a vehicle when they have control over the direction and

> speed of the vehicle"

>

> which means basically, if you are sat in the driver seat, engine on or off, you're driving that vehicle

> (Stated cases again uphold this point), it's only an utter bastard who'd do someone for it.

I wouldn't count on that. Certainly in my car, just being sat in the drivers seat could not count as driving, I am confident that I could defend that. Unless the ignition is turned on, the steering is locked as is the 'gear' selector (I can't move it out of park). Can't really be classed as in 'control over the direction and speed' when the car un-steerable and immovable. Being sat in the drivers seat is no more driving a car than being in possession of a set of keys is. That said, given the way that our legislation is going, it won't be long before it is a crime to be in possession of a bottle of beer whilst in possession of a car key.

> However, considering the Police is all about targets and figures now, sometimes it's not so hard

> to use common sense when effectively your job is on the line and bills have to be paid.

>

> In that scenario, it's not the cops fault, it's the heirarchy and the councils and finally the

> government for demanding so much.

I've heard better excuses than that on benefit street.

> (Didn't really make the news that we've just had all our public holidays taken away from us

> without consultation. Two a year, Christmas and New year, that's it.)

You get (got) public holidays?

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Re: Not in the UK.....

A family friend got done for "drunk driving" and lost his licence for twelve months because he was sleeping in the drivers seat of his car, with the keys in his pocket.

Seriously, he knew he'd had too much to drink, so decided to sleep it off in the car, cops rolled up, tested him, and busted him.

Yes. the law is stupid.

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Silver badge

Re: Not in the UK.....

"A family friend got done for "drunk driving" and lost his licence for twelve months because he was sleeping in the drivers seat of his car, with the keys in his pocket."

I could be wrong, but I think that;s "drunk in charge of a vehicle" but yes, it's silly that you can be "done" simply for being inside the car with the keys while drunk, even with the key in your pocket, engine off etc.

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Joke

Re: Not in the UK.....

> "A person shall be held to be driving a vehicle when they have control over the direction and speed of the vehicle"

Does that mean if I lose control, skid and crash, I can claim I wasn't driving?

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Re: Not in the UK.....

The greenest lawyer should have gotten that dismissed without breaking a sweat. Utter cobblers.

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Re: Not in the UK.....

Legally, even if you are stopped in a layby you must apply the handbrake and take the ignition key out of the lock before using a hand-held mobile. Note that just switching off does NOT engage the steering lock - you have to remove the key.

Making a call hands-free is just about as distracting as holding the mobe in your hand because you are not concentrating on your driving, so don't do it. However if the mobe is just running a satnav app then it's equivalent to a stand-alone satnav. Both are distracting especially if you try to reprogram them whilst driving.

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Bronze badge

Re: Not in the UK.....

Well sorry to say, you are therefore a cop who doesn't know the law.

The law in the UK states that if your engine is running you can be prosecuted.

See here for the government site: https://www.gov.uk/using-mobile-phones-when-driving-the-law

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not in the UK.....

I work with a cop, and some of the stories I get told are great. Generally they revolve around people trying to dig themselves out of a ticket for something and ending up charged for something worse due to the story they tried to spin. It usually comes down to, they are going to be charged with something, and what it is, is up to them.

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Re: Not in the UK.....

A similar case came up in Australia a few years ago. Except that he person was sleeping it off in the BACK seat (alone, in case any one wonders).

The law was subsequently changed so that this is no longer an offense. But it still is if you're in the front seat.

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Silver badge

Re: Not in the UK.....

Do they still slap you with the catch-all "without dc&a" too, or is that a thing of the distant past? I always thought that statute would pretty much cover everything hand-held.

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Anonymous Coward

It should only be legal when the phone is mounted in a holder. Not hand held, requiring you to fumble around to pick up the phone or look down at it.

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On the google class thing, what if you get one of the proscription versions to replace your current glasses? Would you need to keep another set of them in the car just for driving?

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Silver badge

Yes.

Simple as that.

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Anonymous Coward

The lawyers will love this

Now when someone crashes into another vehicle and the clueless claims they were using the navigation system on their phone, the lawyers will not only sue the individual for negligence but they'll sue the phone makers and service providers. Each lawsuit should net at least $100 million for the plaintiff and their lawyer.

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Silver badge

I'm kinda glad to see the laws on phones in cars is utterly vague all over the world.

Take Australia for instance. The laws are clearely stated - or so you'd think.

You can use your phone as a satnav, provided its in a commercial mount. You can also receive SMSs or eMails on that phone through audio alerts.

However, sunk deep in those rules, what you're NOT allowed to have, is a visual representation of the message, pop up automatically on the screen. If you're one of the lucky few where this is not a configuration option, you need to turn off your phone, or convince the copper your phone was off when that twitter update comes through.

Seriously, it's as if they make the rules intentionally vague just to confuse people. No wait...

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Silver badge

Stopped in heavy traffic is still driving

I don't know about California, but in these parts you're still considered to be driving if you're just stuck in traffic. To be (legally) safe you have to actually pull off before you tie up your hands with something.

All things being equal though checking a map on your phone is probably safer than checking a paper map while driving. Remember when people used to do THAT while going down the highway?

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Re: Stopped in heavy traffic is still driving

Of course, being stopped in a traffic jam makes it impossible to pull off.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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Silver badge

Bah!

If there is any ironic justice in the universe this judge will get run over by someone reading a GPS map on their phone while driving instead of looking where they're going.

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