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France bans drivers from using phones, even when stopped

Commentary: The French decide to become strict on handheld phone use by changing the definition of what it means to be driving.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A man in a car thumbing a smartphone

Ah, la vie off-road. Be careful, monsieur.

Getty Images

The definition of driving a car is beginning to change.

Soon, it will be: "Sitting in a car, while the car drives you."

For now, however, France has decided to redefine what driving means, in order to discourage cell phone use in cars.

As Agence France-Presse reports, it will now be illegal to just pull over anywhere and start tapping away at your phone, unless you've actually broken down. And no, it doesn't make a difference if you have your hazard lights on.

It used to be, in France as in so many other places, that drivers could just pull off the road, switch off their engines, grab the phone and make a call or, who knows, feed that Facebook addiction. 

Now you're considered to be "not driving" only when you're in a designated parking spot or parked in a normal off-road place where it's legal to park. 

The decision was the result, The Local reports, of a driver who appealed a fine he'd gotten for using a handheld phone while parked at a roundabout with his hazards on. The ruling doesn't apply to to cars with hands-free cell sets, The Local added.

In the US, handheld-cellphone-use-while-driving laws vary greatly among states. Many don't ban it at all, other than for texting. Some, like Arkansas, place restrictions only on younger drivers. Others, like Montana, don't even ban texting while driving.

With the French, the fine imposed for breaking the new law will be 135 euros (around $167), plus three points on your record. This is the same fine levied on those who use their phones while driving.  

It will be interesting to see how many drivers are deterred and how many fines are actually handed out.