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News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

California extends hands-free driving law to include GPS apps

by Michelle Lanz | Take Two®

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The Google Maps app is seen on an Apple iPhone 4S on December 13, 2012 in Fairfax, California. Three months after Apple removed the popular Google Maps from its operating system to replace it with its own mapping software, a Google Maps app has been added to the iTunes store. Apple Maps were widely panned in tech reviews and among customers, the fallout resulting in the dismissal of the top executive in charge of Apple's mobile operating system. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You might finally get to own your cell phone, but there are still plenty of rules about how you can use it. For people in California, those rules just got more strict.

A California court has extended the ban on using cell phones while driving. It's not just texting and talking that are off limits, now you're barred from using your GPS apps, too. Specifically, the ruling says you cannot have your hands on a cell phone while driving:

“The distraction would be present 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.”

"I think the state of California would really just like us all to put our cell phones down while driving," said Zac Estrada, writer for the auto website Jalopnik. "The cell phone ban was in 2008 and the texting ban was in 2010. Since then there are so many more things you can do with a smart phone, so the law I don't think was refined enough to stipulate, you can't send an email, you can't check the stocks, you can't check the weather, and you can't check for directions."

Estrada points out that many newer cars come with GPS mapping devices, but that these, too can pose a distracted driving threat. 

"The problem is some of these systems are just incredibly frustrating to use. You can be driving and trying to tell the car where you want to go, and while you're having an argument with the voice commands you could run a stop sign, you could run into a car," said Estrada. "I don't think that some of these systems that are intended to keep both hands on the wheel are actually that much safer to use when driving than a smartphone app."

Estrada recommends punching in the directions to your phone before getting on the road. If you need to get directions while en route somewhere, pull over to take care of the directions, then exercise caution if you need to glance at them while driving. 

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