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California Hands Free Law Applies to Checking Maps

April 8, 2013

By Paul Thomson :: 8:57 PM

Illegal to use map on phone while driving in California.The state of California’s rules and regulations prohibiting the use of cellular telephones while driving also extend to using the maps application on the device, according to a recent judicial ruling.

In a decision made by the Fresno County appellate division of the Superior Court, holding the cellphone in your hand to access the mapping application counts as using the phone while driving, and is a violation of the law.

The ruling doesn’t prevent the use of the mapping app while driving, but suggests that it needs to be done without the driver holding the phone in their hand. It must be secured to a holder, or in a window or dash mount. The ruling did not make any mention of similar mapping functionality of GPS devices, and whether drivers holding GPS systems in their hands while driving would also violate the law.

California’s hands free cellphone law was enacted in 2006, and has been revised several times since then. The latest text of the law is below:

Hand-Held Wireless Telephone: Prohibited Use

23123.  (a) 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.

(b) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

(c) This section does not apply to a person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity.

(d) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

(e) This section does not apply to a person driving a schoolbus or transit vehicle that is subject to Section 23125.

(f) This section does not apply to a person while driving a motor vehicle on private property.

(g) This section shall become operative on July 1, 2011.