California Court Says It's OK to Read Maps on Phones While Driving

A California appeals court has made what could be a controversial ruling: it's declared that reading maps on a cellphone while driving is perfectly legal.

The decision changes a state law that previously meant that checking maps on a phone was prohibited. The ruling, by the the 5th District Court of Appeal, adds a caveat to the current law about using cellphones at the wheel, reports the The Associated Press. Previously, the law did not allow drivers to use cellphones without a hands-free device; now, the court rules, that does not apply when using software that's telling people where to go.

California's laws on cellphone distraction while driving were put into effect in 2009 to stamp out texting at the wheel, and required police officers to visually confirm what the phone was being used for before issuing citations. Given the wide-ranging capabilities of smartphones, that's proved a real pain.

The new ruling is likely to prove controversial; panning and zooming a Google Maps app does, after all, take some concentration which, it could be argued, may be better focused on the driving at hand. Indeed, you can bet that someone will appeal the new ruling and, if that happens, it will have to be reviewed by California's Supreme Court . What do you think should happen? [The Associated Press via Verge]

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