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Law affects cell use in car
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The new law that restricts cell phone use while driving goes into effect on July 1. There are several elements to it. Persons over 18 years may use cell phones as long as a "hands-free" device, like a Bluetooth, speakerphone or earpiece is used. Only one ear, not both, can be used to listen to the cell phone. Persons under 18 years may not use a cell phone while driving, with or without a hands-free device. Police officers and other emergency vehicle operators are exempt from this new law. One other exception to the cell phone restriction law is in the case of emergencies. A motorist can use it to report medical or other emergencies without a hands-free device.

Law enforcement officers can pull over violators of the cell phone restriction law for that reason alone. Therefore, when a police officer observes a motorist driving with a cell phone next to or near their head, that person may be pulled over and cited for the offense. Surely, some persons may attempt to assert that they were not actually using the phone. The presumption will be that the phone was being used unlawfully.

Persons under 18 are under greater restrictions than their adult counterparts. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles web page, drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication or mobile services device to speak or text while driving in any manner, including using "hands-free" devices. The only exceptions are for emergency situations to call police, fire or medical authorities.

I expect that if the number of traffic collisions attributable to incorrect cell phone use does not decline, or, particularly if the number increases, we will likely see new legislation passed that bans cell phone use altogether in the future. Cell phones, along the many other distractions like sound systems, complicated dashboards, GPS devices, DVD systems and the like, are making for increasingly dangerous roadways owing to drivers' inattention.

Another traffic law, one that is relatively new, is the "move over law," which was enacted to protect emergency workers along roadsides. The law requires motorists to move over one lane away from the roadside where police officers, medical personnel or tow truck operators are engaged in their duties. In instances when traffic conditions do not allow moving to another lane, motorists must slow down to a safe speed, keeping in mind the attendant circumstances, to ensure the safety of emergency workers along the roadside. Many motorists are already complying with this new law, but a large number are unaware or simply ignoring its requirements.

Both laws described in this column are really based on common sense, yet many people are willing to take unnecessary risks in the interest of convenience and expedience. Neither amount to valid justifications, so the state legislature has decided to substitute new laws for the population's exercise of common sense. The police will enforce these laws, but the best solution is for motorists' voluntary compliance. We will all be safer for it. I wish you safe motoring.