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Whether it is talking while driving, texting and driving, and now even checking maps while driving, road safety and smartphones have become a primary concern for everybody. While for the most part texting and driving has been looked down upon, a more overlooked scenario involves something most drivers today take part in: using a GPS while driving. While many people use the visuals on a GPS to help them get to where they're going, what most people don't realize is that most GPS warns you not to look at the visuals unless you are at a complete stop, and instead use the audio directions to lead you to your destination. Many people ignore this warning and focus on the visuals anyway, something that has become a problem when it comes to using our smartphones as our main GPS.

A recent court ruling in California addresses this common issue by making looking at and holding your smartphone, even for GPS directions, illegal in the California Vehicle Code.

The California Vehicle Code already targeted other issues like texting, and even going so far as to ban voice calls unless it was completely hands-free as defined in section 23123 of the California Vehicle Code:

a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.”

In January 2012, a man named Stephen Spriggs received a citation for violating section 23123. When brought to court, Spriggs challenged the citation by saying that it never specified that he couldn't look at his phone for GPS purposes, which is what he was doing at the time of citation, and that California needed to revise the section before giving him the citation lawfully. He also brought to light that the section was also altered later to include the ban of text messaging, so if they wanted to include GPS services they should have stated as such.

Perhaps I’m interpreting the law differently, but just because it doesn't specifically list every app or feature that isn't hands-free doesn't make it right to be used. I mean, let's use some common sense here. If your device has to be hands-free in order to talk to somebody, which still allows you to keep your eyes on the road, why on earth would it be legal to hold a smartphone in your hands to look at it for directions? That's taking your hands and eyes off the road and potentially putting a lot of people in danger. I thought the first "Rule of the Road" was to make sure your eyes were on the road the entire time, and while I'm aware that's not entirely possible every time there are certain things we can do to prevent so many distractions.

To clarify, the California law still allows you to text, call, and even view your smartphone for applications such as maps just as long as your hands aren’t touching it. Simply installing a car mount and downloading hands-free applications would allow you to do all of those things legally.

I never thought it was that hard of a concept to make your phone hands-free while in the car. My car is pretty old. No Bluetooth integration, no internal GPS… my radio even has a tape player as a main feature. But I still made the right adjustments in order to make sure that I would not touch my phone while in the car, if I have to use it. I bought a Bluetooth speaker that clips on my visor and a car mount. That’s all I had to do. My phone is not touched unless I am parked.

I’m very sensitive about road safety since becoming a parent. While I think everybody should be concerned about road safety, I can admit that I was a lot less cautious when it was just me that I had to worry about. Texting and driving, or anything that requires somebody to use both hands and eyes to do anything other than driving, needs to be addressed as it is dangerous – I don’t care how good you think you are at it. Unless you have an extra pair of eyes on top of your head and an extra set of arms sprouting from your torso you should be more focused on driving than what’s going on your phone – if it’s so important you can’t miss it, pull over.

While the new law in California isn’t perfect, and people will continue to do what they want whether they have to face the consequences or not, I still think it was a good move from the state to help better ensure safer driving.

Readers, how do you feel about GPS on our smartphones and driving? Do you find that it’s different than texting and driving? What do you think about this new law from California? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Images via GadgetReview, Mashable


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42 Reactions to this post

"Do you think creating a law that prevents drivers from holding their smartphone and checking their GPS is a good idea?"


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James Norwood No, the smart people already left the state I say let the current residents just run into each other haha.
James Norwood Because you're too god damn cheap to buy GPS for the car.
Jesse Huertas No, but then again, paying 14.99 for a mount off of Amazon is a smarter way.
Donnie Ross Oneill Voice recognition gps duh!!!!
Luis Robles Figueroa No cause these days GPS talk to you so yoy don't have to hold them. It is an audio voice device.
Syedul Islam makes sense.. its dangerous to be looking at your phone while driving.. just get a mount. they are cheap anyways
Sambo Chao it is illegal to mount anything on the windshield (in California) http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc26708.htm
Huey Liggins There's a phone mount that attaches to your front Window and extends the phone directly in your face. Why would you need to hold it? People will keep crying freedom til someone gets hurt. I say put your phone down. We were able to get around without gps before, we can do it now. (yeah I know we looked at maps which was worse but now people also text and other things. Way more distracting than a map)
Jeff Griffith What this boils down to is that old law against negligent driving, get caught doing ANYTHING that endangers you or others while driving, that's negligent driving. Why do we need these stupid cell phone specific laws? Absolutely stupid.
Samantha Brown Ban bastards from drinking Alcohol
Michael Buchko Jr. Using the audio voice directions allows you to never have to look at your phone, just turn the music off, it's not more important than your life being safe.
Kenneth Li it's just a legal way for the governments to ROB you. just like speeding, 99% of people drive over speed limit and how many % cause accidents? I say in the low single digit!
Kevin Lampron There are already laws against distracted driving. We don't need more laws. Cops will pull you over "in the name of safety" but its really just going to be another cash cow for local governments. Trust me, they don't care about safety, they just want your money.
Danu Carrión Perales Over here in PR they made illegal talk on the phone while driving. It's the most useless law ever. You still need to use the phone to go and call someone even if you have a Bluetooth. The funny thing is that of you get caught using your phone while driving you get a damn ticket, but if a woman is caught driving and applying make up to her face nothing happens.
Dillon Sappingfield My only argument with this whole ordeal is that it states you cannot handle your phone at all while driving, which means even using voice actions or changing a song is against the law.
Marcus Edwards Absolutely not. I live by GPS on my phone.
Amer Ahmed Don't expect us to pay for those outrageously expensive docks. If the government wants to give us one, then fine
Sambo Chao Blinking and driving will soon be illegal. In order to drive, you must wear a device that keeps your eyelids open at all time.
Justin A Malakhow It's frightening that we need laws to regulate something that should just be common sense. Put down the phones when you're driving!
Dale Junior Yes. You're in your car to drive and make it to your destination alive along with safe driving practices. Pull over if you need to use your phone or change directions on your gps.
Tyler Franz Frodl It's kinda useful sometimes so it's kinda dumb I think
Robert Wellington Clubine III Good, there is such a thing as hands free and having the other person do this.
Dino Džafovic Yea, like you need gps/maps in usa, theres like 1 highway accross whole country Btw tard, gps is maps, just digital, and if you are so retarded u need a computer to tell you where to go, thats sad. Spoiled americans, im surprised you donthire people to chew your food for you.
Bruce Greenfield so tell me... how long til they ban changing the radio station, eating, drinking your coffee, talking to passengers and oh yes... putting on makeup ? Maybe they should spend more time on jobs... and state spending (without raising taxes !)
Dino Džafovic Successful troll is successful. :victory:
Carl Dale George, hush troll.
George Millhouse enjoy your tickets
George Millhouse um you mean like before GPS when people had to use...MAPS????? you are a moron
Li Xin Hui There's this thing called holder~~ why do you need to hold the phone with your hands?
Dounutz Sesar I think apple made this law cus of their lame ass maps ahhaa
Kurtis Leader Dino your comment is pretty fucking idiotic in itself. Learn the roads? Yea ok everyone has time to learn every fucking road in the world. Go back to your hole where you used a compass and guess work to figure where you are. I'd rather use GPS much better and accurate aka satellites. Fucking moron.
K.j. Littlejohn Yea its a bullshit law cause I do it all the time :-P
Michael Lizardo How would you feel if your nanny or babysitter was texting/GPS'ing while driving a car with your children in it. It's dangerous and life-threatening behavior.
Dino Džafovic its the same as texting and driving so why not, they should completely ban gps in my opinion, educate yourselves people, learn the roads.
Matthew Bourdette There isn't a need to hold it really. Just turn the screen off and it will still tell you when to exit and such. Thats how i do it.
Dalton Melear It is a VERY bad law. It is further infringement on our personal liberties.
George Millhouse if you need to do anything then pull over
George Millhouse how it is bullshit Mark? How is it any different than texting while driving? Set your GPS before you start to drive. Get a car dock and leave it in there
Steve Hartsock Yes. Either get a mount for your phone, or get a dedicated GPS.
Mark Belkowski its a BS law.




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