A recent court ruling in California has made it illegal to use maps on smartphones while driving.  The law does exclude smartphone map usage in such cases as voice-guided or hands-free type navigation.

A recent California ruling has made it illegal to check your smartphone maps while driving and it all goes back to a citation given to a man back in January of this year. 

Steven Spriggs was given a ticket and cited for violating California code 23123, which reads that no 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."

Spriggs argued to the court that he was not talking on his smartphone and that he was not using it for any kind of communication, which includes e-mail.  Spriggs did say that he was using his smartphone as a GPS to navigate.  The police officer that ticketed Spriggs said that he had the mobile device in his hand while he was driving and that suited his professional decision that Spriggs was in violation of the California statue.

Spriggs was not trying to argue that he was not holding the phone, but instead he stressed that the California law does not prohibit anyone from using their smartphone (or other mobile device) as a means of navigation in the form of a GPS. 

Spriggs was not able to convince the appeals court and lost his case. 

The California law has now been reinterpreted to say that you cannot use a smartphone or any mobile device whatsoever in a motor vehicle if you are driving. However, as the code is currently written, it does say that a wireless device may be used as a GPS but only if it is hands-free or some other type of voice command. 

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, U.S. states vary on how a smartphone or mobile device can be used while operating a motor vehicle.  Most states ban texting while driving and some states, such as California, ban phone use all together.  Then there are a few states that compromise and ban phone use by novice drivers such as young people under the age of 21. 

Many critics of GPS or hands-free devices in cars say that even those kinds of uses can and will cause a distraction.  The National Safety Council is one such group that claims there is no evidence that a hands-free or voice activated GPS can reduce distractions while driving.