What states have hands free driving laws?
Since coming on the scene nearly 40 years ago, mobile technology has been making it easier to communicate with one another. From digital pagers to flip phones to the smartphone technology of today, we can stay in touch with friends, family, and coworkers in several different ways.
Video calls, texting, and even using the phone to actually talk to someone has been revolutionized by mobile devices. The ease at which we can reach out, and received, information is unsurpassed in history. Unfortunately, so is the danger of handheld cell phone use and texting while driving.
Operating a vehicle takes a clear head and steely focus on the road. Averting your eyes from the road ahead – even for a second – can be disastrous. Changing the radio station, kids fighting in the back seat, or even shaving or applying makeup – cellphones add to the cacophony of distractions.
However, hand held cell phones are with us every second of the day. With the immediacy of communication, we’ve been trained to respond almost instantaneously. As mobile devices became more prevalent, so did motor vehicle accidents on the road. Novice drivers and drivers under 18 years of age are thought to be responsible for most of the accidents.
The facts don’t bear that out, however. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers with the most fatal accidents across the nation are drivers ages 21-24. Old enough to have a few years of experience driving a car, but young enough to be part of the smartphone age.
Questions, Correlations, and Consequences
In 2018, noted roadside assistance company AAA released a study that stated cellphone use increased the risk of traffic accidents by up to 8 times. And even though these dangers have been well-documented, cellphone use while driving had actually increased over a four year period, 57 percent from 2014 to 2018 (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
While there are no blanket laws on the books that apply to all states, every state has some sort of ban on hand-held devices. Perhaps the most widespread laws on the books involve text messaging while driving. Washington was the first state to ban text messaging in 2007.
Since then, 47 other states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have followed suit. Although there are no outright bans on all cell phone use, 39 states and D.C. do ban use by novice drivers. Additionally, 20 states and the District of Columbia do ban cellphone use by school bus drivers.
Finally, 21 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a ban on handheld use of cellphones while driving. In most cases, these infractions have primary enforcement, which means drivers can be pulled over solely for using the phones incorrectly on the road.
In addition to fees, fines, and court appearances, a 90-day driver license suspension may also be levied. This is in addition to any accidents that may have been caused by distracted driving while on the road. The key takeaway? Put down your phone and drive!
From the looks of it, these efforts seem to be paying off, too. While mobile phone use has increased, the number of deathly accidents due to distracted driving has actually decreased. Perhaps the bans on texting while driving and increase of hands-free devices are working.
Break The Habit
As they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But after seeing just how deadly distracted driving can be – along with penalties that could be as much as $1,000 – maybe those dogs will understand the importance of silencing their phones.
Experts have concluded there are three types of distracted driving. Visual distraction is taking your eyes off the road. The second type is a manual distraction or taking your hands off the wheel. The final type is a cognitive distraction – thinking about anything other than the task at hand.
Age of the drivers may play a role in many accidents, but drivers from 18 to 80 have all be guilty of looking at a text while on the road. It’s an epidemic, but there are few very easy (and free!) steps drivers can take to lessen the pull of a text message tone or email vibration.
- Turn off the phone. Without notifications, there’s no reason to pick up the phone. Need to let someone know you’ll be late? Send them a text before getting in the car. Many phones also have a setting that allows you to respond to texts or calls with a message that says you are currently driving.
- Distracted Driving Apps. There are a few mobile phone apps, as well as a few paid apps, that will help you stay off the phone. Nissan offers SignalShield that blocks cellphone signals from the car. Some insurance companies even offer a way to prove you’re staying off the phone, but that usually means agreeing to some sort of monitoring.
- Keep Your Phone Out Of Reach. And make sure it stays there – reaching for your phone in the backseat is just as dangerous! In some cases, it could involve one, two, or all three types of distraction.
- Pull Over. We understand there may be an emergency that requires your attention immediately. If that’s the case, pull off the road in a safe place (not the side of a freeway) to make any necessary calls. We recommend an off-ramp or side street.
- Do as I say, Not As I Do. It’s no surprise that children take many of their queues from parents. If a parent is kind to others, chances are their children will follow suit. If the parents do something unsafe, so will kids. Break the habit before it starts by not picking up the phone. The life you save could be your own, or that of your child 10 years into the future.
Smartphones have taken over our daily lives. We use them for news, weather updates, sports scores, music, podcasts, and any other form of entertainment or information. Having the ability to get the information you need whenever you need is a powerful, almost hypnotic, pull.
Even solitary pursuits (grocery shopping, going to the gym, waiting in line at the bank) seem to demand screen time for many. Of course, none of those endeavors are as dangerous as being behind the wheel of a few tons of metal hurtling down the road at 60 miles per hour.
Causing an annoyance at the Department of motor vehicles is one thing. Causing injury or death on the road is something else entirely. While most states have laws on the books against texting and driving, talking on the phone with a hands-free device is less common.
So take it upon yourself to do the right thing and put the phone down. Unless you need a tow after a flat tire or mechanical failure. In that case, make sure you have Chappelle’s Towing number programmed into your phone. We offer roadside assistance, car recovery, and host of other towing options.