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Issue Date: Vol. 53, No. 4, April 2013, Posted On: 4/8/2013

California Upholds Cellphone Law For GPS Use

Hank Schlesinger
TAGS: cell phone ruling, California appellate court, vending route drivers, cellphone GPS functions, prohibitive cell phone use, Vehicle Code section 23123, California v. Spriggs) began, Steven R. Spriggs

FRESNO, CA -- A California appellate court has ruled on a case that may have some implications for route drivers. According to the court's ruling, drivers who use their cellphones for GPS functions while driving are in violation of the state's prohibition against phone use in a moving vehicle. The law, known as Vehicle Code section 23123, was generally intended to stop activities such as talking or texting, but now extends to the use of GPS in some circumstances.

The case (California v. Spriggs) began when Steven R. Spriggs was pulled over by the Highway Patrol on Jan. 5, 2012, for using his phone's GPS device to consult a map. The cellphone, the officer testified, was in Spriggs' hand as he looked at a map. According to the law, "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving. When the underlying facts are undisputed, issues of statutory construction are subject to independent review on appeal."

The appellate court upheld the moving violation, but did leave some wiggle room for the use of GPS devices, including those on cell phones. The devices, the court ruled, must be configured for hands-free operation. "Our review of the statute's plain language leads us to conclude that the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone," the ruling reads. "That distraction would be present whether the wireless [device] was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock, or for sending and receiving text messages and emails."

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