We see it every day. A driver of a motor vehicle is stopped at an intersection and then starts browsing the internet or texting someone while using his or her smartphone. Even worse, the driver is texting while driving. We all know that these drivers are distracted from the road, and they could cause a serious auto accident. Yet, smartphones, wireless pads, Fitbits, laptops and cell phones are here to stay. After all, we are scheduling appointments, downloading driving directions, ordering food and purchasing movie tickets with these devices. These devices have literally taken over our lives, and sometimes, even think for us. Even though these technological devices have new and exciting features and functions, these features and functions should never be more important than human safety.
In 2008, California banned texting while driving and prior to that banned the use of handheld cellular phones while driving. However, there was evidently no ban associated with browsing the internet and inputting data into a cellular phone while driving.
Well, on January 1, 2017 a new law took effect, California Vehicle Code section 23123.5. This law prohibits a motor vehicle driver from operating any wireless device unless the driver is using the device with voice-operated technology and in the hands-free mode. A violation of this law results in an infraction as well as a base fine of $20.00 for the first offense and $50.00 for each subsequent offense. There is an exception for emergency service personnel.
A driver can use his or her hands on a handheld wireless device so long as the device is mounted on the vehicle’s windshield in the same manner as a Global Positioning System (GPS), pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 26708(b)(12) or mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not obscure the driver’s view of the road. The driver’s hand can only be used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless device.
This new California Vehicle Code section is limited to “electronic wireless communication devices”. These devices include, but are not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.
Be safe on the roads and don’t text, browse and drive!