News Item

Change in satnav driving laws

A US court has decreed that drivers may use a cellphone to look at map apps while driving - even if not hands-free.

A Californian appeal court backed a driver who had received a $165 fine when he consulted a map application on his phone, looking for an alternate route around a traffic jam. The driver had unsuccessfully challenged the fine in a traffic court and later in a superior court - both times arguing that the law prohibited only talking on the phone, not looking at a map.

Judges in the appellate court reversed the lower courts' rulings, declaring that the law was not intended to impose a blanket ban on any cellphone use. They noted that when the law was enacted in 2006, no-one used their phones for much more than conversation - the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

Prosecutors had argued that the law, which prohibits 'using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking' outlaws any use of a phone that is 'hands-on'.

But the judges disagreed, stating in an 18-page opinion that such a broad interpretation of the law would lead to absurd results:
'Then it would be a statutory violation for a driver to merely look at the telephone's display. It would also be a violation to hold the telephone in one's hand . . and look at the time or even merely move it for use as a paperweight.'

American states adopt different laws in such cases, as do different countries around the world - with an occasional prosecution even for using an installed vehicle satnav. But, generally speaking, in-vehicle navigation displays are accepted as legally acceptable.

Details from the Los Angeles Times below . .

  • 02 March 2014
  • RIN

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