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California court greenlights smartphone use for maps while driving

by Justin King

Judge agrees that laws are aimed at restricting \"listening and talking.\"

A California court has ruled that drivers can use mobile devices to check maps while behind the wheel, narrowing the interpretation of a state law that prohibits cellphone use while driving.

The case involves a driver, Steven Spriggs, who was pulled over in California after using his iPhone to look at a maps app while stuck in traffic. An officer interpreted the driver's actions as in violation of the law, resulting in a $165 ticket.

The judges overseeing the case in the California 5th District Court of Appeal reversed Sprigg's earlier conviction, ruling that the law is specifically applied to "listening and talking" on a cellphone while driving.

The judges argued that the officer's interpretation, and that of lower courts, is too broad and brings "absurd results."

"Then it would be a statutory violation for a driver to merely look at the telephone's display," the ruling said.

Most states have laws that ban texting and talking while driving, unless using a hands-free device, however many of the provisions were written before cellphones were used for other purposes, such as replicating the functionality of an in-car navigation system.