California drivers who use their mobile telephones while stopped at a red light can be ticketed by police, according to a court decision issued Monday.
Using a cell phone while driving is a violation of California law. And according to a three-judge panel, the definition of "driving" includes what's called "fleeting pauses" -- such as sitting in traffic or at a red light.
The judge panel says that excluding such stops from the definition of driving is contrary to the cell phone ban, and "would likely result in significant and numerous public safety hazards."
The panel ruled on a case brought by Carl Nelson, a Contra Costa County driver who lawyered up after receiving a $103 ticket on Dec. 28, 2009. He was stopped at a red light in Richmond and received a ticket for using his phone, which he admitted doing.
Nelson said it's safe to use a phone while stopped. The panel said that there was nothing stopping Nelson from pulling over to the side of the road to use a phone.
The legal wrangling is not over. Nelson will likely appeal the ruling even further in order to allow California drivers phone privileges in traffic and at red lights.
Darren Kessler, a lawyer for Nelson said that Nelson, who is also a lawyer, has paid the fine but pursued the appeal in an attempt to clarify the law.
"If a person is stuck in a traffic jam and is late to pick up a child at school, is that person now allowed to make a call?" he asked, according to reports.