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New law aims to prevent distractions by limiting cell phone use

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Did you know that driver inattention is the cause of roughly 80 percent of auto accidents? That's according to the California Office for Traffic Safety, which also reported that 3,000 people are victims of fatal crashes every year involving distracted driving.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. We believe it is important to make you aware of the dangers of distracted driving, learn how to prevent distractions and understand the penalties drivers can face if they violate local and state laws prohibiting cellphone use behind the wheel.

California bans drivers from holding and operating a cell phone in most situations

All drivers should be aware of the risks of using a cell phone while driving. However, a new law went into effect at the beginning of 2017 that all motorists need to understand and follow. The law prohibits all drivers from holding and operating a cell phone or electronic wireless device, like a tablet, while driving. An exception is made for emergency situations.

All drivers are prohibited from holding a cell phone while driving, regardless of their age. This includes texting, typing, scrolling or tapping the screen. You are allowed to use a single tap or swipe and use voice command or a mounting device as long as you are not holding the cell phone.

One thing to keep in mind: This does not apply to systems installed in your vehicle, such as navigation features. Any device mounted to the windshield or dashboard must not block a driver's view of the road.

Motorists who are caught holding their cell phone while driving can face a traffic ticket and fined $20. Any subsequent traffic offenses for violating this new law will result in a $50 fine each time.

Rules for underage drivers

Stricter rules apply for underage drivers. Drivers under 18 years old are not allowed to use a cell phone or any electronic device while driving. This includes hand-held, hands-free, speaker phone or Bluetooth devices. The only exception for underage drivers to use their cell phone while driving is in an emergency. Underage motorists can face a $20 fine for their first offense, and a $50 fine for any additional cell phone offenses.

Take steps to prevent distractions behind the wheel

Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a time for all of us to reflect on the potential risks we are creating when we drive. It is important to identify these risks, like using a cell phone, and take steps to prevent distractions before an accident happens. Drivers who do not follow this new law may not only end up facing a fine, but they may also cause a serious accident. Protect yourself and everyone else on the road and avoid using your cell phone or other electronic devices while driving. It may just save someone's life.

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