Playing Pokemon Go in your car and California Laws on texting

Jay Leiderman
By: Jay Leiderman
October 18 2016

People Playing Pokemon Go in their cars and California Law on Texting

In California, it seems that the locals have had enough and now California Legislators are now trying to extend the law on texting while driving to playing Pokemon GO and any other such game in the future.

The California Assembly have reportedly (according to the Los Angeles Times) already sent a bill sent to the governor of California Jerry Brown of the law on the use of phones while driving to include Pokemon GO. Bill Quirk a politician from Los Angeles said quote “it’s time to expand the texting ban law get with the times.” The purpose of the bill is to prohibit any mobile device that can distract the driver. Quirk said: “It is an important step in reducing distracted driving accidents, injuries, and deaths,”

Pokemon Go
The Pokemon Go App

The bill would also make it easier for the driver laws already on the books regarding  driver diversion to be enforced by the police, which hopefully should discourage people from playing this game and other similar distracting activities while driving. Of course, people who are old enough to drive must be old enough to know that playing a video game while driving is dangerous, whether it is illegal or not. To date, there are a large number of car accidents directly related to Pokemon GO, like the woman in Japan who was slain by playing the game, the cop car that was sideswiped and there have been many other examples, so it is clearly a recurring problem.

The present law is Vehicle Code section 23123.5

(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.

(b) As used in this section “write, send, or read a text-based communication” means using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail.

(c) For purposes of this section, a person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise activates or deactivates a feature or function on an electronic wireless communications device.

(d) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

Present Prohibitions:

The annual observational study of California drivers found nearly 13 percent of motorists were using electronic communication devices while behind the wheel. That is up from nearly 10 percent in 2015. The state’s Traffic Safety Bureau called the results “discouraging, but not entirely unexpected.” The study says the metropolitan areas were most likely to see distracted driving, with Southern California motorists were holding the phone in their ear at a rate double that of other parts of the state. “Types” and “headings” were almost a third in the 2016 study. Not all of the use was illegal because the figures included drivers using hands-free devices.

  • Mature drivers (18 and older) are banned from using mobile phones unless they employ hands-free phone calls.
  • Text messaging bans for all drivers. The law prohibits the use of electronic devices to “write, send, or read a text-based” Hands-free and voice-activated texting allowed.
  • Drivers under 18 are prohibited from the use of wireless phones while driving – with or without hands-free accessories.
  • School bus operators and transit bus drivers prohibited from using cell phones while driving.
Pokemon Go
The star of the show, Pikachu


How to Avoid the Problem

  • Having your teens downloading a ‘Driving Mode “app on their mobile phones, which automatically sends” I’m driving “reply to texts and calls and keep all messages until you arrive. There’s an app for Android devices, but also Apple phones and many other high-tech solutions for both teens and parents.
  • Having your kids a pledge to never text and drive: I promise to be an attentive driver.
  • An example setting for those around you, especially children and youth, and model safe behavior by keeping your attention on the road and away from flashing and ringing devices and tempted, no one to use electronic devices in the car, while preventing the vehicle operation – Parents and young people to an agreement together, they will not use a cell phone to call, text or e- mails at some stage in the driving of a car.
  • Pull over if you need to call or send a message.
  • Educating family members that distracted driving is extremely dangerous, like drunk driving and driving without a seatbelt.
  • Avoiding calling or texting friends, colleagues and family who you know that are driving.
  • Ask your employer to discourage work while driving, such as taking phone calls or answering e-mails and text messages.
  • Encouraging legislation to mandate safe driving.

Update 28 September 2016:

People might remember a few years back, People v. Spriggs (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 150, which permitted the use of a cell phone in a car for non-talking non-texting purposes. Well, Spriggs is irrelevant now.

Governor Brown today signed AB1785.  The legislation bans “holding and operating,” not just talking or texting with a cell phone unless it is voice-operated and hands-free. Hands-on usage of a cell phone is only permitted if the phone is mounted to the windshield, dashboard, or center console, and only a single swipe or tap of the finger is used to manipulate the phone.

This is really going to hamper my ability to hit Poke Stops while driving.

13 thoughts on “Playing Pokemon Go in your car and California Laws on texting

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