Being new to the legal profession, I find that my friends and family (and just about everybody I have ever met), ask me about different legal issues. One of the most common issues I am asked about is the new distracted driving laws, so here it goes:
A driver cannot hold, view, or manipulate the following electronic devices while operating your vehicle UNLESS the device is in “HANDS FREE MODE”:
- Cell phone;
- Radio communication device;
- Communication device that receives or transmits electronic data, e-mail, or text messages;
- Hand-held electronic device; or
- Wireless electronic device.
“Hands free mode” is a function on a device that allows use of the device in a voice activated manner, without holding the device OR requires pressing only one button one time on the device without holding the device.
Some exceptions to the law apply. Without going into detail, where the law requires a driver to be in contact with others (such as a driver of a pilot vehicle or an emergency vehicle); the driver may be permitted to use a device to communicate while operating that vehicle.
A driver cannot have a display screen of an electronic device visible to them while operating a vehicle. There are a few exceptions, including:
- A device listed above being used in hands free mode; and
- A GPS (if the driver programs it prior to operating the vehicle or is using it in a voice-activated method, and the driver is not holding the GPS).
Drivers are not allowed to do ANYTHING that distracts them while they are driving. This gives law enforcement officials wide discretion. A few other things that are specifically not allowed while driving include:
- Writing; and
- Personal grooming or hygiene activities.
The bottom line is that driving is dangerous and being distracted while driving increases that danger.