As of January 1st, 2017 California’s newest traffic laws were put into affect. Governor Jerry Brown signed off on this legislation which makes it illegal to use or operate any smartphone in your hand for whatever reason. If you own and drive a car in California you now have to invest in a phone mount for your car to avoid penalties and citations.
The logic behind this is that the law explicitly states that drivers are no longer allowed to hold their phones or tablets while operating their vehicle. Therefore they must be mounted or out of sight once the car is in motion. The reasoning behind this law is obvious; drivers need to remain focused on the road and the road only. This is California’s way of combating and expanding the crackdown on distracted drivers and although this is a major inconvenience because we can always find an excuse to use our phone whether it be to call a friend, play music, or find an address the reality is that the driver should only be focused on the road. Not only is their life in jeopardy but anyone on the road or sidewalks as well.
Prior to this law being passed, it was already illegal to scroll, text, click or look at your messages while driving under any circumstances. However, these measures were not enough since there were still incidents of drivers getting distracted and a high vehicle collision rate due to phone distractions. Additionally, drivers also found a loophole by claiming they were using the GPS and not actually texting or performing one of the prohibited actions. Drivers weaseled their way out of tickets and fines by. However, the issue wasn’t that they got away this but more so that they were able to carry-on texting while driving. Not anymore, thanks to the new traffic laws, all this has been eliminated altogether. And as hard as it is to admit, being an active phone user while driving, this will ensure the roads are a safer place.
What Does This Mean To Me?
In short this means you must invest in a phone mount to avoid penalty. According to the new Assembly Bill 1785; drivers are permitted to use their phone when it is in hands-free mode. Now an alternative is to attach or mount their phone to the windshield or dashboard and only use them for single swipes or taps. A single tap or swipe is far less distracting than having to go through an entire slew of menus and prompts on your phone. However, even those looking to mount their phones will have to follow some safety guidelines. Assembly bill AB 1785 puts the same limitations on mounting phones as they do on portable GPS systems. The guidelines for mounting are as follows:
- Smartphone may be mounted in a seven-inch square within the lowest corner of their windshield furthest from you. Or a five inch square on the lowest corner of the windshield near the driver. This mount must also be outside of the airbag deployment area if the display is used for door to door navigation when the vehicle is in motion.
- The new law also prevents drivers from hanging or mounting their phones smack dab at the center of the windshield which obstructs their view. No matter what function or purpose you may be using your phone for, only a single tap or swiping motion of your finger may be used to activate and deactivate the feature.
Penalties and Exceptions
Breaking any section of the law will result in consequences for the driver. Violating section AB 1785 of the new California traffic law is now a serious infraction that can attract a fine of twenty dollars for first time offenders and an additional fifty dollars for every additional offense. This section is not only limited to smartphones, but the clause specifically states that the devices mentioned includes any electronic wireless communication devices, broadband personal communication devices, special mobile radio devices as well as and held devices or a laptop computer.
There are however a few exceptions to California’s new traffic rules. The new section does not apply to emergency service professionals using electronic communication devices while operating authorized emergency vehicles. These include ambulances, police among many other authorized emergency service providers working within the scope of their duties.
Driving while using your smartphone is pretty dangerous. Writing even the smallest message while driving takes the driver’s eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, but there have been too many fatal car accidents for comfort due to such an unnecessary action. Especially on the highway traveling a minimum of 65 mph, the driver is best served with their full attention on the road. In the year 2015, about 2.5 million people were involved in accidents in the United States alone. About 1.6 million of these people were in accidents due to drivers being distracted by their phones. The government may try to mitigate and introduce new safety laws, but it’s up to you, the driver, to practice safe driving and minimize distractions while operating your vehicle!