Don’t tweet and drive

January 28, 2017

As new technology like cell phones, tablets and smart watches evolves, the amount of distractions we face while driving increases as well.

This expansion of technology poses public safety risks to all of us who are drivers or passengers on California roads, and according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in distraction-affected motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2012. In 2015, handheld cell phones were found to have been a factor in 500 injury accidents, 700 property damage collisions, and 12 fatal crashes in California alone.

The Legislature is aware of the risk personal technology devices pose when used by drivers. In 2006, California banned the use of a wireless phone while operating a vehicle, unless the phone is designed to allow for hands-free operation. Then in 2007, drivers were prohibited from writing, sending or reading text-based communications, such as text messages, instant messages or emails. And in 2012, a new law was enacted that permits drivers to dictate and listen to text-based communications, as long as hands-free devices are used.

California law only prohibited the use of text-based communication while driving, as well as prohibited making a non-hands-free phone call. However, we all know there are many ways to use a mobile phone and that the technology has progressed rapidly since the first cell phone use laws were passed.

This is why earlier this year, the Legislature passed and the governor signed Assembly Bill 1785, authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk. As of Jan. 1, drivers California are prohibited from operating an electronic device held in their hands while driving, and can no longer browse the internet, take photographs or videos, use navigational assistance tools or other applications if they are handheld.

Drivers are permitted under AB 1785 to use electronic devices if they are mounted on the windshield, dashboard, or center console of the vehicle, and if they are operated by a single swipe or tap of the finger.

Getting mobile devices out of a driver’s hands will make California’s roads safer and provides clear guidance to the law enforcement officials charged with enforcing this new law.

May you and your family enjoy a peaceful and safe 2017.

*Published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel on 1/28/17