Judges in California say it’s fine to use smartphone maps while driving at 65mph

Existing laws applied only to talking and texting

Los Angeles

Back in the days before GPS and Google Maps, drivers in Los Angeles had to rely on an actual paper book called the Thomas Guide to direct them to their destinations.

Navigating the city’s sprawl of freeways and cul-de-sacs with a sat nav is challenging enough. I can only imagine the time and effort that once went into planning a route across town – not to mention the number of cars idling on the hard shoulder while drivers flicked through the pages of the guide, frantically searching for the appropriate grid reference.

Yet this vision of the past is significantly less terrifying than the prospect of people zigzagging between lanes as they scroll through their smartphones at 65 mph, which is what frequently happens today. And this week, a California court found that such behaviour was entirely legal. The appeals court threw out a fine issued to Steven Spriggs, a motorist from Fresno, who had been caught studying a map app on his phone while gridlocked.

The ruling stated that California’s ban on drivers talking on their mobile phones without a hands-free device did not prohibit the use of apps such as Google Maps or Waze. The existing laws were written in the pre-smartphone era, and thus applied only to talking and texting.

I have a friend who drives this way, with the steering wheel in one hand and their phone in the other, looking from the road to the screen for several seconds to check their route, while in motion, on multiple occasions. Each time, I have to suppress the urge to reach over and steady the wheel so that we won’t veer into the central reservation. This friend, who shall remain nameless, has so far managed to successfully navigate the streets of LA without incident, but I suspect this is simply a matter of luck.

In January 2012, Mr Spriggs was stuck in traffic – the natural state of the California commuter – and took out his iPhone to plan an alternative route. He was spotted studying the handset by a California Highway Patrol Officer, who slapped him with a $165 (£99) ticket.

Mr Spriggs told the appeals court he was well aware of the dangers of scrolling and driving: his own son suffered a broken leg after being hit by a driver who was talking on a mobile phone. While he believed it had been misapplied in his case, he hoped the authorities would look again at the law.

I hope they will, too. There is surely a more nuanced alternative to the current legislation that would prevent people sitting in traffic from being penalised by over-zealous patrolmen – but that might also rescue my friend from future prangs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower