Monday, September 22, 2014

Phones Down, Heads Up!

Phones Down, Heads Up!

Chances are that as of October 1st, you will hear and see this phrase a lot. October 1st, Vermont joins fourteen other states around the country in banning the use of handheld cellphones, laptops, music players and other portable electronic devices while driving. Gone will be the days of grabbing your phone to make a call while you are driving to work, the grocery store or to pick up kids from school. 

While many of us may think that this “multitasking” is a productive use of our time and be annoyed or downright angry about the new law, there are some hard facts that may make you think twice.
Distracted driving by talking on a cell phone makes a driver four times as likely to crash and texting while driving can increase that risk even more, making a driver 23 times as likely to crash. We often forget what we were taught in driver’s education, that driving a motor vehicle is a very big responsibility. As drivers, we have our lives, the lives of our passengers and the lives of the other folks driving around us on the road and pedestrians at stake when we turn the key in the ignition. 

Driving deserves our full and complete attention. It is important that we remember that the phone call can really wait and if it can’t pull over to the side of the road and take or make the call… and then continue on to your destination.

The new law does not prevent you from talking on the phone in your car while you are driving as long as you follow the requirements of the new law. The only exception to the law is making a call in an emergency to police or emergency personnel, such as 911.

Cellphone Keyboard
Cellphone Keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What you need to know:

1. Your phone must be secured in the vehicle as of October 1st. It can be secured in a mount which can be placed anywhere in the vehicle with the exception of the windshield, it can be in your purse or your pocket or in the glove compartment. It just cannot be in your hands.

2. You are allowed to use your hand to activate or deactivate the speakerphone feature on your phone but you have to use a hands-free method of talking – such as using speakerphone, a headset or the Bluetooth feature of your phone, which allows your call to be taken over the internal speakers of your vehicle.

3. You are still allowed to use the GPS feature of your phone under the new law.

4. If your vehicle or your phone is not equipped with Bluetooth capability, you can still talk hands-free by buying and using a simple headset with a microphone. These are relatively inexpensive and can range from the traditional headset that goes over your head to the earbud headsets that are secured in your ear canal.

5. Fines for violating the new law are quite steep. A first offense can range from $100 to $200. Fines for a second or additional violation during any two year period ranges between $250-$500.

6. If you are caught using your cellphone in a work zone where workers are present, in addition to the fines mentioned above, you also face two points on your license for a first offense and five points for any subsequent offense. There are no points for offenses that do not occur in a work zone.

Regardless of using hands-free technology it is important to remember that junior operators in Vermont are never allowed to use a cellphone while driving unless they are calling the police or emergency personnel.

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