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Your cellphone can be the most dangerous distraction on the road

Today, cellphones are the Swiss army knives of communication. They connect us to billions of people around the world via voice, text, email, web browsing and application functions. These versatile tools fit in pockets and purses and are portable enough to be used just about anywhere. However, that doesn't mean they should be used everywhere. Using a cellphone while driving is a dangerous practice that can lead to catastrophic or fatal injuries.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), thousands of people around the country are killed each year by distracted drivers. Over 54 percent of California drivers said in 2016 that they had been hit or almost hit by someone who was using a cellphone. OTS resources also state that five seconds is the average time someone's eyes are off the road while texting and driving, and if that person is going 55 miles per hour, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

Because of these dangers, it is illegal in California for you to use cellphones while driving, unless you use a hands-free system. For those under 18 years old, it is illegal to operate a hands-free phone system while driving. These California laws also prohibit the use of other handheld devices, such as laptops, mobile radio devices or pagers, while driving.

There are a couple of exceptions to the rule

Like many rules, there are a couple of circumstances that are treated a little differently. If you are over 18 years old and your phone, or other handheld device, requires some swiping or tapping for it to be used, you may still be able to use it while driving if it meets both the following conditions:

  • It is mounted on the windshield the same way Global Positioning Systems are mounted, or it is mounted to the dashboard or center console in a way that does not obstruct your view of the road.
  • You can use a single swipe or tap to complete the desired task.

Emergencies provide another exception to the laws. Regardless of age, someone can use his or her phone while driving to contact help in an emergency. For example, you could legally call a police department, fire department, health care provider or other emergency professionals.

When your phone goes off as you are driving, it is tempting to pick up the call or read the text message, but unless you have previously ensured that your system meets all the legal requirements, it is safer to wait until you are not driving. Phones are amazing pieces of technology, but do not let them become driving distractions.

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