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What Can I Do and Not Do under the New Distracted Driving Law?

Posted Friday, December 22, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Many clients and friends ask me about this year’s new law aimed at reducing distracted driving collisions but also causing some confusion about what exactly is prohibited and whether one can be pulled over.

The new Distracted Driving Law forbids virtually all use of handheld gadgets such as phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices while driving. This new law also prevents handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data. Photography while driving is also illegal. Drivers also cannot use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.

However, drivers may still use a smartphone mounted in a dashboard cradle, for instance to use a navigation app, but not to watch video. The new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device. Built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, remain legal. Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers. Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio remain legal. Also, handheld devices may be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

This new law is also a primary offense, meaning a police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device. These violations will be reported on a motorist’s record for use by the insurance industry.However, miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating will be a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change. The penalty will be an extra $30.

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