59°
Mostly clear
TUE
 89°
 54°
WED
 84°
 56°
THU
 86°
 56°
FRI
 85°
 57°
SAT
 90°
 57°

Last hours to vote for the Best of Sonoma County finalists! Don't miss out!

Judge says cellphones can't be used for GPS, music while driving

Most people know it's against the law to talk on a cellphone while driving a car.

But what about looking at a GPS map on a phone or adjusting music with one?

A Fresno County appeals court answered the question in a recent ruling that appears to expand restrictions on cellphone use.

The three-judge panel upheld a ticket issued to Steven Spriggs, a Fresno State University fundraiser, who pulled out his phone while stopped in traffic to study a map.

The court found Spriggs was guilty of distracted driving because he was using his hands to operate the device.

It said the distraction would exist "whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails."

The ruling is only binding in Fresno County, but it is likely to be persuasive elsewhere, said Sonoma County Traffic Court Commissioner Lawrence Ornell, who found the court's analysis to be "sound."

"This is the first case on this," Ornell said. "It takes a definite position. A bright-line ruling, as they say in the law field."

But police agencies in Sonoma County said it may have little practical effect. They already give the $162 tickets to anyone operating a cellphone while driving a car.

"It doesn't matter what you are using it for," CHP Officer Jon Sloat said. "The way we look at it is, if it's in your hand and you are on the roadway, we make an enforcement stop."

Sloat said the court has upheld citations for people who were stopped at a traffic light when they picked up their phone. He said it's clear people are "testing the loopholes" and the courts are closing them.

Others disagreed with the ruling, saying it goes against the letter of the law. Joe Soldis, a former Santa Rosa police officer and private investigator, said the legislator who wrote the law did not specifically outlaw the act of dialing a phone and didn't contemplate use of GPS.

© The Press Democrat |  Terms of Service |  Privacy Policy |  Jobs With Us |  RSS |  Advertising |  Sonoma Media Investments |  Place an Ad
Switch to our Mobile View