California is clear about using cell phones while driving. Driving while operating hand-held and hands-free cell phones and driving while texting are addressed in not just one law, but three separate laws. California is not alone in banning cell phone use while driving. It’s a nationwide trend prompted by safety concerns and accident statistics.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that ten million U.S. drivers use cell phones at any given time. That’s a lot of opportunity for distraction by dialing, answering, talking on or texting with a device while also paying attention to your vehicle, road conditions and other drivers. The debate about what exactly is unsafe about using cell phones while driving is ongoing, but as of March 2014, 12 states plus D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones and cite violations as a primary offense without any other offense necessary for enforcement.
What is Your Policy?
Driving employees need to know about California’s laws regarding cell phones and driving, and they need to understand company expectations for following the laws. Do they know how to handle business calls that come in while they are driving? Are expectations in writing and is everyone trained? Employers with company fleets and employee drivers may utilize GPS systems and defensive driving training to limit liability and manage accidents and insurance expenses, but with widespread adoption of hand-held technology, policies to address all forms of distracted driving add an extra measure of management to protect the bottom line and comply with the law.
California Bans Hand-held Cell Phone Use While Driving
California’s first law banning cell phones prohibits all drivers from using hand-held phones while driving in California and includes both residents and non-residents driving within the state. There are exceptions for emergency calls to law enforcement, fire departments or other emergency services, and passengers are not banned from using cell phones in moving vehicles. Individuals operating authorized emergency vehicles or those driving on private property are also exempt from the law. Penalties for driving while using a hand-held cell phone include graduated monetary fines, but do not include points for moving violations.
California Rules on Hands-free Cell Phone Use While Driving
California’s second law on cell phone use allows drivers 18 and older to use hands-free devices while driving using a speakerphone or an earpiece in one ear. Covering both ears is not allowed. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any wireless communication device while driving, with the only exception being for emergency calls. Penalties under this law also include graduated monetary fines.
California Bans Texting While Driving
California’s third law regarding cell phones prohibits all drivers from texting while driving, including writing, sending and reading text-based communications. Penalties as of 2014 start at $20 for the first offense and jump to $50 for subsequent offenses.
Establishing a Distracted Driving Policy
Effective written and published policies send a clear message that employees may not use hand-held devices while driving company vehicles. These policies may include directions to turn off electronic devices before starting the vehicle, using voicemail greetings to inform callers that drivers cannot answer calls while driving, or a requirement that the driver pull over to handle calls or texts while parked. Companies should include any directives and expectations of drivers and have employees sign off on the policy.
HR solutions can assist in developing a distracted driving policy, answer any questions and provide implementation suggestions. For more information on PAYDAY’s HR Solutions, visit our website or contact us today.