Know Your Laws: Mobile Usage While Driving

Car in ConstructionEvery year on January 1st, many new laws go into effect. As an increase in technology usage takes over our world, many of these laws have been created in order to keep us safe from the consequences of becoming distracted. Of course, I am referring to the laws surrounding mobile usage while operating a vehicle. Knowing these laws and making sure that all of your employees understand them is one of the first steps in order to keep you, your organization, and your community safe.

While in a perfect world we would like to think that everyone has the good judgement to resist operating a device while behind the wheel, we know that human beings inherently discover ways to justify their actions. As a result, each state is paving their own way for the laws surrounding mobile usage while driving. These laws initially began cropping up in individual towns, but as the issue has become more vital, state governments have become involved and are enacting state-wide bans on specific usage.

Illinois is one of the latest states to join in the hands-free revolution. As of January 1st, 2014, hands-free devices (such as a bluetooth headsets and other technology) will be required if an individual needs to make a call while driving. The initial fine for this law is $75, but with every offense that follows, the fee will be increased by $25 until the maximum of $150 has been reached. If a non-hands-free mobile user harms another motorist, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor which results in a $2,500 fine and up to a year of jail time. If the non-hands-free mobile user is involved in a fatal accident, it is considered a Class 4 felony which can result in a $25,000 fine as well as 3 years in prison. With those glaring consequences, it is a wonder that drivers would even consider using their devices while operating a vehicle.

In addition to Illinois, the following states/districts already have a law regarding hands-free usage for all drivers: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia. In all of these states outside of New Jersey, driving without a hands-free device is a primary offense. In New Jersey, it is a secondary offense which means that the driver would need to be pulled over for a different offense to which this would be added on to.

For the states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Maine, and Virginia, there are hands-free bans for specific populations of the state (under 18, intermediate licence holder, etc.).

As for electronic messages while driving, this ban is even more strict and is in place in all states outside of South Carolina and South Dakota. While many users may think that this is only regarding texting while driving, in many states it expands to internet usage as well.

Each state has different laws regarding mobile usage so it is extremely important for you and your organization to know and understand the laws of your state. In addition, if you or any of your organization is planning any travel, researching the laws before a trip can result in a more safe and stress-free trip for all of those involved.

To further enforce adherence to these laws and to ensure the safety of your organization, developing a corporate wireless policy is highly advised. This policy is a contract between an organization and an employee that definitively states the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors surrounding mobile device usage. Having a corporate wireless policy in place can not only encourage employees to comply to state laws and develop an environment of safety, but it can also limit an organization’s liability in mobile-device related accidents.

While RAK Consulting is a technology-enthusiastic organization, we are also highly-dedicated to the safe operation of that technology. If you have any questions regarding the laws in your state or about including a corporate wireless policy within your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us