Starting January 01, 2017 California Expands Restrictions on the Use of Cell Phones and Mobile Devices while Driving
Although it was already illegal in California to text or call without a hands free device, a new law effective 01/01/2017 tightens those restrictions.
Existing law prohibits a person from driving 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, and is used, to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation.
This new law would instead prohibit a person from driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless device, except for a few specified conditions. In the past, you could hold your phone briefly to swipe or press a button. Now you cannot even touch your phone unless it is properly mounted or attached to the car.
The number of California drivers who use cell phones or other mobile devices is on the rise. Safety officials have expressed concern as the improper use of mobile devices appears to cause more crashes and injuries. Earlier this year the state Office of Traffic and Safety conducted a study which revealed that nearly 13 percent of the state's drivers were seen talking, texting or using a cell phone in some manner while driving. But the actual numbers are probably much higher considering the difficulty of observing mobile-device use in a vehicle.
This increasing number of drivers who use cell phones or other mobile devices while driving is not surprising with the additional use of smartphones in the United States going from zero about 10 years ago to 200 million today. Although the danger of using cell phones while driving is pretty obvious, it seems as though they have become so much a part of our lives that we can't put them down even when behind the wheel.
Texting is by far the most risky activity you can do with your smartphone while driving. Texting can make vehicle accidents 23 times more likely. Distractions from texting outweigh distractibility from other activities, such as talking with a passenger, adjusting the sound system or talking on a cell phone. Texting, by its very nature, involves at least three separate physical/mental actions, all of which take attention away from the road ahead and potential driving hazards - visual, manual and cognitive. Plus most drivers try to avoid being seen texting so they don't get a ticket if the police happens to drive by. As a result, texting is usually done below the windshield and focuses a drivers attention downward making it more difficult to see the road.
Constant use of mobile devices becomes so addictive that people have the urge to read and answer text messages and cell phone calls immediately. The problem here is that within the few seconds of time needed to perform this activity, an accident can occur. The average time taken away from watching the road ahead is just five seconds. In that time period, a vehicle traveling at 55 mph will go the length of a football field. With attention distracted, it is like driving blindfolded for those few seconds. The results can and often are fatal.
In the attempt to increase safety on the roads, state legislators passed the bill taking effect on January 01, 2017. AB1785 reaffirms the state's prohibition on using a handheld wireless telephone or wireless electronic communication device while driving, but authorizes a driver to operate such devices under certain circumstances. Specifically, drivers are permitted to use their finger to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device with a single swipe or tap, so long as the device is mounted in a location that does not obstruct the driver's field of vision. Repeals and adds Vehicle Code section 23123.5.
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