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Valley man is fighting to have cell phone laws changed

Friday, April 12, 2013

A fight to change California law on distracted driving is beginning here in the Central Valley. A recent appeals court ruling makes it illegal to use GPS apps on your smartphone while behind the wheel.

The case began here along Highway 41. A man was pulled for being on his iPhone while driving. The man says he was looking at a map on his iPhone. That man, Steve Spriggs says the court ruling is wrong and lawmakers need to rework the rules of the road.

We've all spotted drivers holding their phones and talking or texting behind the wheel. It's been an illegal practice in California for years. Spriggs says he was unfairly cited, not for talking or texting, but for using his GPS map application to navigate around freeway construction in early 2012.

Spriggs of Fresno said, "I didn't do anything unsafe. I didn't do anything to put anybody in danger. Had I done it I would have taken my fine, I would have paid it and walked away because I would have deserved it."

Spriggs is now the center of a court case that is being watched by drivers nationwide. He says using his phone to navigate traffic is no different than holding a paper map.

"I certainly didn't expect this." Spriggs said. "I simply wanted to have my ticket overturned because I don't think it's fair."

The judges don't see it that way. The ruling says "distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails."

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the two California laws targeting distracted driving are unfairly vague.

Capozzi said, "I think the judges made the right decision. The problem is does the driver understand what the law says? Most drivers do not, most people do not. It takes a judge or lawyer to interpret the law. That's not fair."

Just this week, democratic state senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg chimed in on the law application saying "I think that's taking the law too far. You know, knowing where you're going while you're driving is actually a good way to avoid having accidents, so, if that requires some clean up legislation, I'm sure we can accommodate that."

"We all know there is a problem with distracted driving, I think we need a law that's going to take care of the problem," Spriggs said.

As for what is next in the case, Spriggs tells me a local law firm is now driving the legal fight for free.

They've submitted a request to have the ruling heard by the appeals court. Spriggs is hoping law makers will write new more specific distracted driving laws.

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Tags:
fresno, fresno county, central valley, clovis, local, rick montanez
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