Legally speaking, yes, a Californian is legally protected when they reach down and glance at their smartphones while driving in order to double check the directions to a friends house.
Or a better way of phrasing that: so far, in the state of California, using the map function on smartphones while driving is legally permissible. A recent court ruling by California’s 5th district court of appeals overturned the lower court in June 2014, siding with the plaintiff who was ticketed for using his smartphone’s map to look up an alternative route in a traffic jam.
Of course, this sole ruling is not necessarily guaranteed to last. California’s state legislature could step in and change the law to be inclusively prohibit map reading on smart phones, or California’s Supreme Court could overturn the decision. The best way to ensure you’re in compliance with the law is by checking up on this ruling to see if anything changes.
Meanwhile in Washington, just a year before this case was filed, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a national ban on driver use of personal electronic devices. The NTSB cited 3,000 distraction related deaths as it’s main support. Then again, just because a government agency recommends it certainly doesn’t mean it will actually be implemented in some way nationally.
One important point to keep in mind however, is that most other types of phone usage, such as talking on the phone and texting while driving, are illegal. You’d have the initial burden of convincing the officer who pulled you over that you were in fact checking up on a directional update, not a Twitter update.
But should you do it?
When considering whether or not a distraction is worth it, every driver should take into consideration a few basic facts, and cross consider them with the driver’s own specific predicament.
- Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
- About %16 percent of all fatal car crashes are a result of distracted driving
- Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded
It of course also could depend on your situation; if you’ve got an emergency, or a seriously compelling reason to get some place as fast as is possible, then maybe you weigh your predicament against the facts. Maybe. If it actually stands firm in light of the grisly facts, then sure. Maybe.