<< News Scan | Main | Drowning in Diversity >>


That Depends on the Definition of "Telephone"

| 0 Comments
Orin Kerr at VC points us to this opinion of the Appellate Division of the Fresno Superior Court.

Public concern about the dangers of distracted driving has led to legislation that limits the use of cellular phones and electronic communications devices while driving. The drive behind this legislation was the concern about the interference with the driver‟s attention caused by the physical aspects of using these devices. This case requires us to determine whether using a wireless phone solely for its map application function while driving violates Vehicle Code section 23123. We hold that it does.
At the time the law was enacted, phones were phones.  Now phones are minicomputers.  It's not against the law to look at a paper map while driving.  Should it be against the law to look at a map on a smart phone while driving?  Is a phone still a phone when it's being used as a map?
The law is "uncommonly silly," to borrow Justice Stewart's famous phrase, in another way.  It is perfectly legal to use a cell phone while driving in congested city conditions as long as you use a "hands free" device, even though the hazard of distraction has nothing to do with the hands.  However, it is illegal to use a cell phone held in your hand on a rural stretch of freeway with no other car for a mile around, even though that is far safer than the use by the hands-free city guy.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives