Our legislature has been busy, and keeping up with new laws is something that everyone should do. One new law that will go into effect on January 1, 2017 will directly impact many California drivers. AB 1785 changes the way “hands free” use of electronic devices is defined and enforced.

In the past, a driver has been prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic device to write, send or read a text-based communication, unless the device is configured, and actually used for, voice-operated and hands-free control.  Driving on our streets and highways, you surely observed many drivers holding their phones to use the speakerphone or to voice-operate their text messages in an effort to avoid a ticket.

That use of the phone while driving a motor vehicle will now be prohibited.

AB 1785 states that a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.

Such a device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted pursuant to paragraph (12) of subdivision (b) of Section 26708 or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.
  2. The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.

The new law does not apply to manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle, or to emergency personnel. A link to the language of AB 1785 can be found here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1785

Be safe on the roads and avoid a ticket in the new year.

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