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
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

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Representative

£15500 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This international company deve...

Recruitment Genius: Field Service Engineer - Basingstoke / Reading Area

£16000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established name in IT Ser...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue