CA Court Bars Reading Phone GPS Map While Driving

A California appellate judge recently held that using a cellphone GPS mapping program while driving violated the State’s recently-enacted hands-free driving law.[1]  The California statute [Cal. Veh. Code § 23123(a)] specifically provides that:

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 finding that the defendant had violated the statute, the Court reviewed the plain language of the statute and determined that

the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone … whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails.  (p. 3.)

In 2010, then-Governor James Doyle signed 2009 Wisconsin Act 220 into law, which provides that “No person may drive … any motor vehicle while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail message.”  Wis. Stat. § 346.89(3)(a).  A driver may, however, send a text or email while driving if using a “voice-operated or hands-free device if the driver of the motor vehicle does not use his or her hands to operate the device, except to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device.”  Wis. Stat. § 346.89(3)(b)(4).

Given the explicit language “texting” language in Wisconsin’s statute, it seems the defendant may have had better luck defending his claim in Wisconsin.  What do you think?  Given the increased capabilities of cellular phones and wireless devices, do you think a similar broad prohibition is likely in our future?

Obviously, ELSA does not condone the use of electronic devices while driving and urges you to avoid any distractions which result in you taking your eyes off the road.  Stay safe!

[1] The entire opinion may be found here.


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