Hands Off That Phone While Driving!
We usually don’t think about summer being a particularly active time for our state government, but many laws do go into effect during the summer. Specifically, July 1 is the effective date of several big changes in our laws including the hands-free driving law that we wrote about several months ago. This new provision has been widely publicized, but now that it is in effect, drivers need to abide by it or possibly pay a fine. This means changes in driving behaviors are needed because they have now become illegal. It is important to remember that the hands free law was enacted because using phones, emailing and texting is so dangerous to drivers and to all others sharing the road.
The new “Hands Free Law” is extensive and prohibits drivers from holding a phone while driving. A driver can only use a phone for making and receiving calls using a wireless headphone, an earpiece or bluetooth in their vehicle. Touching a phone to make or answer a call is allowed as is GPS. Calls on electronic watches are permitted as are use of GPS on these devices.
A headset can only be used to speak on the phone. Listening to music using headphones is not allowed. Drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, unless the text is dictated. The new law prohibits a driver from writing, sending or reading a text message, an email or any things else that is web based. Videos are not allowed, unless it is for navigation.
It is permissible to use a phone to report a crash or other emergency. It is also permissible to use a phone when parked, but NOT at stop lights or stop signs.
Distracted Driving Causes Fatal Crashes
The increase in serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents compelled this new law. According to law enforcement and other experts, many of these crashes are due to distracted drivers. Statistics in other states with similar laws have resulted in a drop of fatal accidents by about 16 percent just in the first two years. This number increases as the public gets used to driving hands free.
Enforcement of the new law will likely be slow and steady. There are likely to be warnings, rather than fines to start with, but fines will eventually be imposed and they are significant amounts.