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California court to hear distracted driving law challenge

The Fifth District Court of Appeal in California will be hearing a case challenging the state's cellphone restrictions. The case was brought as a challenge to a traffic ticket that a man recieved after police observed him looking at the map application on his smartphone while sitting in a traffic jam. 

The man says that he doesn't believe looking at a map application should be considered distracted driving under the meaning of California's law. The law specifically addresses using a cellphone to talk or send or read text messages, but it does not say specifically whether or not there are penalties for other uses of a smart phone from behind the wheel. 

For most California readers it may seem clear that any time a driver is looking at a screen instead of at the road there is an increased danger to that driver and to the public. The issue with distracted driving is not the fact that text messages are particularly engaging, but rather that a driver takes their eyes off of the road in front of them for several seconds during which time they are at a signficantly increased risk of being involved in a car accident.

This driver disagrees and is arguing that he was not distracted while looking at the map on his screen. He says he has found signficant support from outside groups for this stance on the issue.

What do you think - is any use of a cell phone from behind the wheel negligent? Or should drivers be allowed limited access without penalties?


Source: Los Angeles Times, "Do cellphone distracted driver laws go too far? Court will decide," Robin Abcarin, May 1, 2013. 

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