Don’t touch that smartphone! As of January 1, 2017, California law prohibits drivers from using “a handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device” for any reason unless both of the following are true. First, the device must be mounted on the windshield, dashboard or center console (in a way that does not interfere with the driver’s view of the road). Second, the driver must be able to activate or deactivate the device with a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.
Assembly Bill No. 1785 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 26, 2016, and went into effect on January 1, 2017. AB 1785 modifies the California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5. If drivers violate the new law, they face a fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent violation. Policy makers and car accident lawyers explain that the purpose of the law is to reduce car crashes caused by distracted driving.
The use of handheld devices is the leading cause of distracted driving accidents which maim and kill hundreds of thousands of drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists each year. Research studies have concluded that using a handheld cell phone is as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Many drivers are asking how AB 1785 is different from existing law which bans texting and talking on a handheld device while driving. When California enacted its initial ban on the use of cell phones while driving, the year was 2006 and cell phones were still primarily cell phones, not smart phones. Even when the law went into effect in 2008, cell phones were mostly used for talking and texting. A decade later, smart phones are used for everything from reviewing documents to managing music to communicating through social media to sending emails and recording and streaming videos. This expansion of smart phone capabilities was not captured in the existing California law which specifically addressed texting and talking on a cell phone.
Despite public education efforts about the deadly consequences of using a handheld device while driving, most drivers admit to using them. Under California law before Jan. 1, 2017, many of the ways that drivers were using the devices were not explicitly illegal.
With the enactment of AB 1785, there is no question about what is allowed under California law: drivers cannot touch an “electronic wireless communications device” while driving unless the device is mounted in the car and can be activated with a single touch or swipe. Devices include smart phones and “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.” The new law does not apply to “manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle.”
Car accident attorneys and public health experts hope that the new law improves safety for everyone on the roadways by reducing the number of vehicle crashes caused by distracted drivers.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an automobile wreck related to distracted driving or other causes, call the car accident lawyers at Cerritos Legal today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.