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California_Hands_Free.jpgCalifornia lawmakers may give motorists the green light to use a smartphone map while behind the wheel in light of a recent Fresno County court ruling.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said this week that a three-judge panel in Fresno County took California's traffic laws too far when it ruled that a man using his smartphone to check a map at a stoplight violated the state's bans on talking on the phone without a hands-free device or texting while driving.

"Knowing where you're going while driving is actually a good way to avoid having accidents, as opposed to 'Shoot! I missed my turnoff. I better swerve three lanes and try to catch it before I drive by,' " the Sacramento Democrat said. "If that requires some clean-up legislation, I'm sure we can accomplish that."

The court found that the use of a smartphone for other reasons than talking or texting qualifies as the type of driver distraction that is the "primary evil sought to be avoided" by the laws. While the ruling applies only in Fresno County, the opinion suggests that lawmakers change the law to clarify their intent if they believe digital map use is OK.

Court: Fresno motorist can't use hand-held map

PHOTO CREDIT: A driver wears a hands-free ear piece for a mobile phone while waiting in traffic at the Bay Bridge toll plaza in Oakland. Jeff Chiu / Associated Press file, 2008


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