Texting and driving is a pretty heinous crime. Bad enough that it's spawned entire ad campaigns devoted to educating the public on the dangers of such acts. Of this, you are no doubt aware. What you may be less aware of is the fact that figuring out where you're going is exactly as dangerous as sending someone a message that says "Doesn't the Peachoid look like a giant..."

California, despite having no known Peachoids, knows this very well and a court has ruled that using a mapping application is just as bad (and illegal) as texting behind the wheel. This isn't the first time California has come down hard against GPS in cars. For a while, it was illegal to mount a navigation unit anywhere on your windshield, though starting January 1, 2009, a new law allowed them to be displayed in the lower left or right corners of your field of view, which some motorists found to be unsatisfactory.

The court did recognize that there was room to argue that the law banning any hands-on use of electronic devices was a bit arbitrary, but unfortunately, that's not for the courts to decide. As the law is written in California, you simply cannot use your maps app while driving.

Or at least, you can't touch it. As long as you set up your navigation route before you leave, place your phone in a dashboard mount that fits in a 5"x5" area in the lower-left corner or 7"x7" area in the lower-right hand corner of your windshield such that it doesn't impair your field of vision, and do not interact with it unless in a hands-free manner...everything should be fine.

Source: State of California Appellate Division Superior Court (PDF) via CNET

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://twitter.com/Defenestratus Defenestratus

    California just adds more and more reasons to loathe and despise it.

    Way to go Calfornia.. government gone wild!!! Remember, you're paying taxes out the a-hole to live in a regulation-hellhole.

    • timrcm

      I'd take California over Illinois any day. At least you can enjoy life out there. All I get to do is put up with terrible weather, pay extraordinary amounts of state payroll taxes, and drive on the worst maintained roads in the country - all combined with the scenic view of.. cornfields.

      • Havoc70

        You might be a slight bit happier here but the honeymoon wont last long. Taxes up the A$$, govt spending out of control, and idiot politicians everywhere.

        • timrcm

          We've had both of our last two governors arrested and placed in prison, both for stealing massive amounts of state money. They weren't even affiliated with each other. Spare me the shitty government speech.

          • Havoc70

            While the governors haven't been arrested i am sure they just haven't been caught. But multiple cities and their leaders have been stealing from the public for years, along with multiple cities filing bankruptcy so yea its the same old same old here. Shitty government is shitty government no matter the state.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    And this makes... perfect sense. There's no reason staring down at a map is any less dangerous than staring at a text message. Use voice guidance or buy a car mount. Americans try to multitask in the car far too much, and as a Los Angeles resident, I am all too happy that there isn't some kind of non-text message use technicality for people to use an excuse for driving unsafely. The fine isn't nearly high enough as is - it should be the cost of speeding ticket, if not more, because a $20 ticket (yep, really - plus county fees) isn't deterring anyone.

    • http://twitter.com/carsonJEFFRIES The Jeffrey


    • Havoc70

      Using while driving i agree, the fine should be much much higher. But not allowing me to set my Note II in the Holder in the center of my dashboard (Ram 2500) is just an asinine Law

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        That is fairly dumb, considering most in-car nav units are center-mounted.

      • andy_o

        I was wondering about this. I have heard people say the windshield thing, but I didn't really believe it until now (didn't even bother to look it up), and I can't believe it's such an old law. I have a dash mount, but the suction cup goes on the dash, and the arm lowers the phone into the area more or less in front of the vents, right above the stereo, so the phone isn't even over the dashboard.

        The LA Times story though says that dash-mounted ones are OK.

    • calisux

      Its a minimum $169 here in Los Angeles.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Is it? Nolo says $76 statewide including fees.

        • andy_o

          I know that's the texting fine. Maybe he assumed it would be the same, which it probably should.

        • NexusKoolaid

          On the Caltrans billboards in Orange County and the Inland Empire the fine for texting is displayed as $159+. That '+' is, as I understand it, an approximate 180% tax.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Ah, Thanks for the info.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            you pay tax for a fine...wtf?

          • NexusKoolaid

            I may be a little off on my wording - what I'm calling a 'tax' are actually additional surcharges and penalties. Call it what you will, but the end result is the same - you end up paying more than the actual posted fine. The actual amounts can vary from county to county, but in my area of SoCal it ads up to quite a bit. Years ago I ended up paying almost $300 for a $100 speeding ticket.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            wow that is nuts. i know IL is not liek 150-200 from last i heard...used to be 70-105 or something when i was in high school

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      As someone who has TOTALLY NEVER violated one of these laws, I still have to agree. I would wager that many of the people who have issue with this law will be the same ones who will drive behind someone going 60 in a 65, speed up to pass them, look over at the driver (because that makes a difference), see that they're texting, and yell "Oh, GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND DRIVE, ASSHOLE."

      Yet claiming that using a Maps app is exactly the same somehow magically turns California into a nanny state, even though half the country has adopted similar laws.

      • Brandon Watkins

        I just think is bullshit how we call ourself free, but where only free as long as we don't make choices. Don't get me wrong I thinking texting while driving is stupid , and I guess maps would be the same. But the Government isn't here to protect us from ourselves! Let me say oh yeah thats stupid I'm not going to do that. Whats next our they going to make a law that says i must where chain gloves every time I use a knife, so that I don't cut myself.

        • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

          I think there's a difference though - if it were just about endangering yourself while texting/mapping/whatevering, it'd be one thing, but when someone is driving, there are lots of other cars and people around them that are also put in danger.

        • http://twitter.com/arghness Alex

          When someone runs over your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/child while looking at their phone, come back and let me know how you feel about what you just said.

          People don't just injure themselves when they drive dangerously. If that was the case, I'd agree with you.

          • Brandon Watkins

            I can see your point but can you not see mine, it isn't the government's job to be mom and dad!

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            Man, are you kidding me? You really think that "keeping the public safe" falls under the umbrella of "being mom and dad"? You think that it's not the government's job *at all* to provide regulations so that the public can be safe on public streets paid for with public money that's owned by the entire populace for communal use? You think that the government is treading on your INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS by telling you to put the damn phone away and focus on driving before you get someone killed on public streets because, guess what? Lives are lost every day because of this stuff.

            "The government is taking away my right to be distracted and potentially get others killed on the freeway!!!!" Good.

          • Brandon Watkins

            You know, you're right. You really are. Maybe its just me, but I find it utterly ridiculous that this even has to be a law. Thats the reason i get so damn pissed off looking at this crap. That people are so fucking stupid, that they need a law to prevent them from killing them self. I'm just going to turn this around and say this is why we need google's self driving car! Sorry for being ignorant.

          • umataro42

            That's it exactly. There shouldn't have to be a law telling people not to distract themselves while they drive, but there are enough stupid people out there doing so that it made the law necessary.

            And people always complain that their freedoms or rights are being taken away. Your freedom is not allowed to infringe on the freedom of someone else, which is why you aren't "free" to drive dangerously. And driving isn't a right, its a privilege, which is why it can be taken away.

          • QwietStorm

            It's not about being mom and dad. Like the article says, these situations are so common, that something must be done to at least attempt to curb the chance of it happening. Hell, you still have the choice, the choice to break the law. There are still dummies every day texting while driving, I see it all the time. So go ahead and ignore mom and dad's advice. It's always the kids who think they know better, or the ones who go against the grain just to do it, who jump into the fire.

        • Qliphah

          Total agreement. If you look at the actual statistics, there is no correlation between texting and driving as there is the increase in number of drivers. Causation does not equal correlation.

          People will do what they feel like. Making laws for common sense actions will only lead to an even worse nanny-state. We don't need to be told to breath but if everyone started suffocating do you think they'll make it a law?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Let's get rid of all speed limits - people will do what they feel like. Let's let people drive drunk - people will do what they feel like. Let's let people drive without licenses - people will do what they feel like.

            I know it's very fun to pretend that our government serves literally no purpose other than to make our lives more difficult, but arguing laws about safety shouldn't exist because "people will do what they feel like" is very, very narrow-minded. I agree, there is a line where the state should intervene and where it should not (I don't want to get too heavy into politics here), but when you're talking about the safety of the population at large on public roads, I'm OK with a little "nanny stating."

          • http://www.facebook.com/ShinobiPhoenix Cody Shiranai

            Actually, in most places in Europe, there are no listed speed limits and people are engaged and responsible enough to use common sense about how fast they should go and pay attention and most accidents (if any) are their own faults, not because they weren't following a law. Honestly, they are some of the safest drivers ever. Then I came back home, and realized it's sad that in America you couldn't get away with such things because people just take advantage instead.

          • blunden

            Incorrect, as far as I know. The only roads with no speed limits are some autobahn roads in Germany and Belgium. Some roads don't explicitly state the speed limit in Italy, France etc. but there is still a limit that you are supposed to know.

          • Stipe Hodak

            Wrong. There are probably less than 1000 km of highways in Europe specifically in Germany, where you can drive as fast as you can. Everywhere else there's a speed limit for each type of roads and there don't need to be traffic signs with limits written on them, because everyone should know on what type of road they're driving and what's the speed limit (there's usually a sign at the border entering a country where each type of road is listed together with a speed limit). Specific signs with lower speed limits than what's typical for a specific type of road do exist, but they're for lower speeds, not higher than permitted... And Europeans are far from being responsible and engaged on the road...

          • Timothy Gelter

            I don't know where you're getting your statistics.
            Feel free to peruse these and you may change your mind:

        • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

          You fail to see the point that driving is a privilege, not a right. The constitution doesn't protect our right to drive steel at 50 mph.

          • Sam

            Tell me where in the Constitution states that you can't travel how you want. By the way, the Constitution is not supposed to list all of our rights and limit your rights to the ones listed (read the ninth amendment).

            However, we do not have the right to infringe on others rights, meaning we should not deprive people of their right to life as stated in the fifth amendment.

          • Bob Bigellow

            Apparently you got all the way to the ninth amendment and forgot to read the tenth amendment. States can make their own laws, you know. It's not just one Federal government and that's it. For instance, states can impose speed limits on roads provided by the state.

        • HopelesslyFaithful

          at this rate...lets just discuss banning soda beyond 16 ounces.....

      • andy_o

        Hey Eric, your last couple of paragraphs are at least a bit misleading. The guy was holding the phone in his hand while looking at the maps and driving. A friend in Las Vegas actually was fined for the exact same thing.

    • Tee

      I don't know about anyone else, but using my maps app helps me be a safer driver, not more dangerous. If I didn't have my gps I would be slamming on my breaks every time I see a road at the last second, crazily switching lanes, and frantically doing all sorts of nonsense while I worry whether I'm going to miss my turn. I think forcing you to mount your gps in the corners of the windshield is more dangerous as well, since you seriously do have to look away from the road to view it. If I have my phone in the middle of my vision I can still easily see the road.

    • umataro42

      I also live (and more importantly) drive in Los Angeles, and I wish there was more enforcement of the hands-free law, or any distracted driving. At least once a day on the freeway to or from work I get stuck behind some idiot going 40 when there's plenty of space in front of them and 99% of the time they're trying to talk on the phone, usually holding it up to their ear.

      One time, it was someone eating, but I think they can still get ticketed for general distracted driving. But most of the tickets I read about are on surface streets, which is good, but it can be more dangerous on the freeways, especially here.

      It doesn't cost much to buy a mount, either for the dashboard, or to stick in the A/C vent (I find those more reliable), so you can look at your maps without having to look down for too long. It also doesn't cost much to buy a decent bluetooth headset.

    • Tee

      Is a stand-alone navigator illegal too? Or a CD-player? Or a built-in screen in the dashboard? Or talking to your passengers? I'm so happy I don't live in California.

  • TomStieger

    What about using the radio in my car? Is that illegal too?

    • QwietStorm

      You better hope the station isn't on classic Michael Bolton anthology before you start driving.

    • alan

      everything gives lot of distraction is illegal.

      that includes hot chick on front seat.
      soon it will be illegal.

      • Mike Reid

        Hot chicks illegal ? From my cold, dead hands... ;)

        It's just about "the way the law is written" in California. I presume they excluded radio in their definitions.

        I DO think radios are dangerous if you have to look and take your eyes off the road for even a third of a second. I've grown so used to steering wheel controls for 20 years now that I can't imagine not having them. Volume up/down and same for station is all I need.

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      so regular maps are illegal too because i am sure those can't be safer...but it is the government...who the fuck knows

  • Wilfredo Alarcon

    smh to Cali. I live here, but sometimes I wish I didn't.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001144455023 Michael J Carroll

    Nanny state does it again.

  • http://twitter.com/carsonJEFFRIES The Jeffrey

    So much for masturbating while driving. I thought that car mount was for watching mobile porn.

    • Qliphah

      Oh no, you can still do that while driving. You'll just have to go back to the old paper magazines, no law against that! (that I know of....)

    • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

      It's fine as long as it's done hands-free.

  • timrcm

    Hell, starting navigation while you're already driving is downright difficult - Maps can be clunky at finding the right place sometimes. I've ALWAYS started up the navigation before leaving. People don't do this?

  • http://profiles.google.com/replaceracismwithjustice Brian T

    Next we won't be able to touch the radio while driving wtf!

  • mechapathy

    I used to mount my GPS in the lower left corner when I had a standalone unit. I found it greatly impaired my vision when turning left onto a narrow roadway, eg single-lane one-way streets with parking, highway on-ramps, etc. Now I mount my phone directly under my rearview, and have no problems. Good thing I don't live in Cali, I guess.

  • Scott

    Love the House of Cards reference =D

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Thanks for playing. ;)

  • bobbutts

    Unenforceable nitpicky law. Just start pulling over and citing reckless drivers, regardless of what the cause is.

  • Asphyx

    Come on you California nuts...go all the way and ban radios, Climate controls and passengers as well to remove EVERY distraction that can make your ADD Citizens more attentive to what's going on around them while barely going more than 3 MPH in your awful traffic patterns as well!
    Jello was right....The Suede Denim Secret Police will be coming for you!

  • Brandon Watkins

    Its nice that we all have our freedom, right!

    • andy_o

      Calm down Ron Paul, it's not as bad as it looks like.

    • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

      You do know that driving is a privilege and not a right, don't you?

    • umataro42

      Your freedom isn't allowed to infringe on the freedom of others. A distracted driver crashing into and killing people falls under that.

  • denbo68

    Wonder if this applies to flying aircraft as well

  • andy_o

    Oh, FFS, it's not that bad. Read the PDF, this case was all about the "hands-on" use of the "appellant". As I said above, my friend in LV also got fined for the exact same thing. The difference is she wasn't such a jackass to waste taxpayers' money to take it to court.

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    Meh, fair enough. I dont do much keyeing in anymore anyway. Usually just use the voice actions like "Google, Navigate to..." so I should be fine in California.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ShinobiPhoenix Cody Shiranai

    I think the bigger problem is that outside of mandating voice nav, doesn't this sort of thing KILL an entire industry, which seems VERY un-American (something that capitalism, which is religion here, would never allow).

    I'm sorry, but most people are HORRIBLE at following voice nav. No offense, but it is really no different from a man hating his wife nagging him while driving, especially for some reason he misses a turn or makes a wrong direction (something my own partner does CONSTANTLY and then the GPS goes crazy having to readjust for him). Most of the time, when I use GPS and I'm on cruise or I have made a stop, I do look AHEAD to try and know where my turns are coming up, so I won't be a surprise (remember, a voice nav will only tell you ONCE... maybe twice max, and only so far ahead of the actual turn). I just think there's not that many right answers and too many people proposing them and much like the article about "Not calling a phone bad for not having your SPECIFIC needs met", people wouldn't use GPS if they didn't need it. It's still better than getting lost or trying to pull out a map while driving and the only reason it seems bad is because Americans themselves are bad at multitasking (because we mix too many unimportant things with the important ones as well) even though our own lifestyles necessitate it.

    • paleh0rse

      It should be noted that this is California we're talking about here. Other than the Hollywood and radio industry executives, there isn't much love for Capitalism throughout the state's "leadership" and general population...

    • umataro42

      He was ticketed for holding the phone in his hand while looking. If he had sprung for a dash mount, A/C vent mount, or windshield mount, he probably would have been fine.

      So it won't kill an industry, and it could give a boost to the installable mount industry, similar to more people buying headsets after the "hands-free talking only" laws were passed.

  • johnythefox

    So i drive for a living, 1000'S of miles a week. I see so many people using their phones every day. Texting, talking, even playing games. From what ive seen some of the worst offenders are the ones that are suppose to be writing the tickets for these "crimes" Instead of setting the right example

  • Magnus100

    The joys of living in a liberal state. They try to control every bit of your life with common sense devoid laws.

  • William Peterson

    True statement. I got my ticket in Fresno, all because I had the phone in my hand as I was making a left hand turn. He saw I was not texting & knew I was using navigation but said it didn't matter, they are one in the same. My question still remains how they can be on the computer typing in info & reading it about you and your vehicle, be on their cell phone and talking to dispatch on the radio while driving and that's okay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vivecuervo7 Isaac Dedini

    I agree with this. You're probably MORE distracted when trying to perfectly input an address while driving then you are when quickly scribbling a message to a friend and not caring about spelling at all.

  • Slighter

    California = The Capital of The Nanny State
    Next ban - no farting in your car or house with children or the elderly present

  • Peter Smythe

    It surprises me that someone would get caught doing this. I mean, can't you just not have your phone visible? I get that using the map app without pulling over first to make it go to voice or display mode is a bad idea, but still, hasn't anyone heard of keeping their phone below view of the cops?