A new California law takes effect on January 1 that prohibits all use of a handheld cellphone while driving, including hitting the skip button on a playlist, looking at a map app, texting, or chatting with someone on speaker. As CBS 5 reports, while there already was a law pertaining to talking and texting on a cellphone that is not dashboard- or windshield-mounted or in hands-free mode, the law as written did not pertain to using maps or any other applications on a smartphone while driving. And one man who got ticketed in Fresno for checking a map while driving fought that ticket all the way up to the California Supreme Court, and ultimately the California Court of Appeal, which led to the new law.
That man is Steven Spriggs, a 60-year-old law school graduate who was at the time of his ticket, in 2012, working as a professional development officer at Fresno State University. He represented himself in battling his $165 ticket, arguing that California's law regarding cellphone use while driving was specific in prohibiting "listening and talking” with the device in one's hand, and he also argued that using a paper map in the same situation would be far more cumbersome and dangerous. As Justice Denied reported in 2014, the appeals court ultimately agreed with him in an unanimous decision. The court stated, "Based on the statute’s language, its legislative history, and subsequent legislative enactments, we conclude that the statute means what it says it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it. Consequently, we reverse his conviction."
That brings us to Assembly Bill 1785, which takes effect Sunday, and which prohibits drivers in California from "holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving."
The law makes exception for phones mounted to windshields or dashboards in the manner of GPS devices. And the new law carries with it a $20 fine for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent ticket.
Separate laws apply fines for texting while driving (same as above, $20 for first offense, $50 each additional), and talking on a hand-held device without headphones or hands-free mode ($76 for first offense, $190 for a second offense).
So put down the phone and drive!