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Should California Have Banned Checking Smartphone Maps While Driving? 433

Nerval's Lobster writes "According to an appellate court in California, checking your smartphone while driving your Volkswagen (or any other vehicle) is officially verboten. In January 2012, one Steven R. Spriggs was pulled over and cited for checking a map on his smartphone while driving. In a trial held four months later, Spriggs disputed that his action violated California's Section 23123 subdivision (a), which states that a person can't use a phone while driving unless 'that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free driving and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.' In short, he argued that the statute was limited to those functions of listening and talking—things he insisted could have been followed to the letter of the law. But the judge ruled that operating a phone for GPS, calling, texting, or whatever else was still a distraction and allowed the conviction to stand. That leads to a big question: with everything from Google Glass to cars' own dashboard screens offering visual 'distractions' like dynamic maps, can (and should) courts take a more active role in defining what people are allowed to do with technology behind the wheel? Or are statutes like California's hopelessly outdated?"

Comment USA perspective = bizarre (Score 1) 1719

She had 2 handguns, completely reasonable for self defense. A standard .223 carbine... standard rifle you can get at walmart, fun to shoot and then a shotgun, pretty typical for hunting small game.

You do realise that to most people in most parts of the civilized/first world, this sounds completely insane, right?

Two handguns for self defence? Insane. Guess what I have for self-defence in the first world country where I live? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a bat or knife. Times I have been violently murdered or robbed so far: 0.

A "standard" .223 carbine... that you can buy at a neighbourhood variety store. Insane.

A shotgun, "pretty typical for hunting small game". Insane.

Even more insane, though, is this idea that your hobby/paranoia (which are the two reasons you implicitly think people should have guns) outweighs other people's safety.

Where I live, you actually don't see guns, other than small handguns, in holsters, carried by the police. That's it.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns just make people way more effective at killing each other. That's what they are for. Take up archery, buy a can of mace, and stop being so completely ridiculous about your weapon-infested society.

Comment Cue stupid comments from non-Australians (Score 4, Informative) 452

Before there is too much stupidity, if you've never been to Australia, please realise:

1. It's huge. Really huge. I live in one out of two of the closer-together cities in Australia, and they're about 800kms apart. In the other direction, the next major city is 2,500kms away.

2. It's mostly empty (in terms of civilization). Think of driving through rural Utah or Arizona, which are quite similar to the Australian bush.

3. It's mostly flat and full of similar looking landscape.

4. National parks and non-national park areas often look quite similar.

5. There's usually only one or two ways to get around in the country.

6. Mildura is a small town in the middle of bloody nowhere. If I was driving there from here I'd expect to pass through a handful of tiny settlements on the way.

So if you are relying on your GPS to get you somewhere outside a major city, it's actually quite plausible and reasonable that you might not have much idea that you're being led off in the wrong direction until you (don't) get there.

It's also quite plausible that you can die - it has happened before. People get lost, they run out of fuel, they don't have water, the temperature easily gets up into the 40-50C range and - dead.

Comment Re:In the air? (Score 2) 381

Flying -- with the notable exception of lighter-than-air such as gasbags -- is too energy intensive to be consumer-level practical at this point in time. Leaving out the technological, mass production, and licensing hurdles.

You forgot the most important issue - we are currently doing a good job of causing climate change with a few billion of us using motorised land vehicles. There is no way known that the environment can sustain any significant fraction of the population moving to air travel as a commuting method.

We should be focusing on getting rid of the idea that individuals need 1+ tonne lumps of metal to get around, not finding new ways to pump out greenhouse gases.

Comment Re:... Because everyone is suing everyone ... (Score 1) 738

At that point, I thought we had arranged to nominate a certain group of citizens to cut through this kind of crap. Seriously, we must be at a point where government intervention is justified, rather than allowing billions of dollars of legal fees, court time and most importantly innovation to be wasted on this nonsense.

Comment Re:Every single industry that sells tangible produ (Score 1) 276

Well, the counter argument to this is that the, let's call them 'informational', goods don't depreciate with use like a tangible product does.

Of course they do.

Have you ever followed the price of a new release game? They start at, say, $70, then drop to $50, then $30ish, then end up in a "value" version for $15-20, then the value version drops to as low as $10 or so. You can see this in both physical releases and electronically distributed versions.

They don't depreciate in the sense that a particular copy doesn't rust or get "mileage" like a car, but their value is linked almost entirely to their novelty, so they actually depreciate more predictably than a car.

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