Once upon a time, the cell phone laws for drivers in California in the United States were simple – hold a cell phone in your hand and make a call while driving and you are just breaking the law. Fast forward three years, however, and with a range of options for cell phones – such as texting, GPS devices, email dispensers, voice recorders, music players and cameras – and it is not just the public who are confused, with even many police officers themselves unsure as to what is legal and what is not.
“When you look for loopholes, the whole issue of cell phone use, texting or distracted driving becomes confusing, if not overwhelming,” says Steve Creel, a police officer with the California Highway Patrol. For instance, it is in fact still legal to read and enter a phone number on a cell phone while driving – so long as you put it down first. At the same time, however, if you send a text on your cell phone even while your car is stationary at the traffic lights, then you are breaking the law. Add in various other apparently contradictory and sometimes even nonsensical loopholes, and confusion is the inevitable result.
“The GPS thing is goofy,” notes the CEO of a software company in San Malteo, 50-year-old Phil Fernandez. “Why can I use the GPS that is built into my dashboard, or a dedicated portable GPS device, but not Google Maps on my iPhone? These laws should be clarified and made consistent.”