smartphone navigation laws

New Year, New Smartphone Laws

As 2017 rolls in most of us commit to making changes to improve our daily habits. Unfortunately, studies show that resolutions quickly fall by the wayside as old habits die hard. It’s the small but definitive commitments that tend to be longer lasting than significant changes, such as “I am going to work out every day” or “I am going to lose 50 lbs.”

Actual change sometimes comes as the result of rules imposed upon us, rather than resolutions we jot down with the best of intention. One of those is regarding how we can use our smartphone navigation apps in the car. January 1st brings changes in California, including new smartphone laws, that many may not be aware of but that will affect us regardless.

Skyrocketing numbers of car accidents and near misses prompted changes in the “hands-free” driving prohibitions. No longer will you get away with the excuse that you were using the navigation app on your phone. Section 23123.5 of the Vehicle Code now states:

“A handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted pursuant to paragraph (12) of subdivision (b) of Section 26708 or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.

(2) The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger. “

In plain English…the phone MUST be mounted, and the only touch allowed on the phone will be to turn on or off the navigation. Needless to say, there is no texting, web browsing or looking at Facebook allowed. No touching the phone while driving! Learn to use voice-activated controls.

Phone Mounting Options

Putting your phone in the cup holder and then picking it up to look at navigation will result in a ticket. By the grace of good luck or God, that should be the only consequence of you touching and looking down at your phone instead of watching what’s going on in front of you!

There are different types of mounts and depending upon what kind of car you have. Keep in mind that not all will work for your specific phone and car, so before you go out and buy one, there are some things to take into consideration.

Air Vent or CD/DVD Mounts – Depending upon the location of a DVD slot or your air vent, mounts that work by fitting into the slots may not be the best choice. If the DVD or CD slot sits low in the car and close to radio controls or other knobs, the mount may be difficult to install and secure. You need enough space to be able to expand the teeth that widen and allow for the device to be stable while holding your phone. Also, it cannot be low. The legal requirements are for height equal to the dashboard or windshield so that your vision is not drawn down away from the road. The same goes for your air vents—make sure they are accessible, high, not fragile so that expanding the teeth of the mount will snap the slots, and that you won’t be disrupting air flow.

Dashboard Mounts – These will only work if you have a flat area that allows the base of the mount to sit firmly. If you have a curved dashboard, they will not securely stick.

Windshield Mounts – Windshield mounts work depending upon the curve of the windshield and its distance from your vision. Keep in mind that it must be placed on the left side of the driver, not in the middle or to the right of the driver if it will obscure vision.

I prefer those that have a wide base to provide stability. Look for a high-quality sticky pad or suction cup such as on the iOttie Easy One Touch 3 (or 2 depending upon the model of phone you have.) I also like the Logitech [+] Drive, although it requires the application of a magnet to the back of the phone, this is better for smaller phones or strategic placement of magnet on the larger phones for balancing and stability.

Cup Holder Mounts – The cup holder mounts are easy to use since you just have to place it in the cup holder, but it must have a long enough arm to raise the height of the phone to where you can safely see it.

Earphones, ear buds and the law

As of January 1, 2017, the law also changed about wearing headphones or earbuds while driving.

Having your music, podcasts and audiobooks on your phone is a godsend, especially when you are on the road and traffic is a bear. But if you are driving in California, make sure you’re not listening through headphones or more than one earbud, whether you’re driving a car or riding a bike.

Among the laws that took effect January 1, 2017, is California’s two-earbud driving prohibition. It has long been illegal to drive with headphones that cover your ears. Earbuds were excluded from the rule. No more. You can only use one earbud while driving.

– See more at

My recommendation is absolute:  do NOT wear headphones or earbuds of any sort. Not being able to hear what is going on around you creates a danger to you and others on the road. Earbuds accentuate the distraction by allowing you to focus on the sound in your ears. Use the Bluetooth connection in the car or, if your vehicle does not have the ability to connect to your phone via Bluetooth, buy one of these devices. If you cannot figure out how to connect your phone to the Bluetooth, get help. Most car dealers, repair shops or young folks can get you connected.

Don’t Procrastinate on Safety

These days most of us rely pretty heavily on our navigation apps, it is important to make sure you are using it safely. Don’t put off purchasing a phone mount. Vow to start the new year with better habits on the road. Not touching your phone while driving is a small resolution that can be a matter of life and death.

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