New California State Law New State Hands-Free Driving Law – Is it Enough?

Taking effect on January 1, 2017, a new California state law eliminates all hand-held use of mobile devices while driving.  Last year, highway fatalities increased at the highest percentage in 50 years according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Experts blame drivers’ distraction due to mobile devices for this national trend.

Under the new law, phones must be mounted to the vehicle dashboard or window, used hands-free or with a Bluetooth connection that requires no more than  a single tap or screen swipe.

That means flipping through a music collection, tapping information into map or directional services, browsing traffic reports, or taking videos and photos is now against the law – joining the previously illegal acts of texting and talking while holding the device. 

While many riders who have survived unnecessary near-misses or device-distracted-drivers may applaud these restrictions, the National Safety Council is asking lawmakers to repeal the law – saying it’s not enough.

According to the NSC, mounting the mobile device on a vehicle windshield does not eliminate distraction or tunnel vision (reduced field of view).  A visual and attentional distraction presents itself every time the device is used – whether texting, talking or operations.   Neuroscience research shows that the brain can only process one source of information in the brain at a time.  There was even a Mythbusters episode which analyzed this.

Drivers will have a few months to mentally adjust before the new law is enforced. The goal is to cut down on the number of accidents caused by distracted driving. 

In the meantime, cyclists should remember that even though a driver doesn’t have a phone in their hand, they could be just as distracted as before this law came into effect.


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