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California court says drivers can read maps on their phones

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Google Maps for iPhone 2040
Google Maps for iPhone 2040

A California appeals court today ruled that reading maps on your cellphone while driving is legal, clarifying a state law that previously prohibited the practice, and setting a precedent for future legislative revisions. In a late-afternoon ruling, the 5th District Court of Appeal said the state's law, which does not allow drivers to use cellphones without a hands-free device, does not apply to software that's telling people where to go. That's good news for a Fresno man who was ticketed for looking at directions on his iPhone two years ago, and who brought the matter to court, reports the Associated Press.

Mapping apps get the green light

California's distraction-free driving laws went into effect in 2009 targeting text messaging, and required that law enforcement officers make a visual confirmation of what that driver is doing with their phone before issuing citations. However that created all sorts of problems when cases went to court, especially given the multi-featured nature of smartphones. The law also required extra clarification after a 2012 revision managed to exclude drivers under the age of 18 from the ban on texting. Today's ruling is likely to be filtered into additional changes to the law, or get a review from California's Supreme Court if the decision is appealed.