At 55 miles per hour, a vehicle travels 100 yards — the entire length of a football field — in about five seconds. Imagine driving that stretch blindfolded. “Who would ever do that?” you might ask. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that’s exactly what we do when we look down at our phone to read a text message. As an employer, do you want your drivers operating vehicles blindfolded even for short periods of time?

The risk of traffic accidents increases dramatically just from talking and texting. With mobile devices equipped with even more features such as navigation, music streaming, and various other applications, there’s even more temptation to pick up a mobile device while driving, thus creating an even greater risk.

In California and throughout the country; hand-held use of a phone while driving and texting while driving has been illegal for many years. However, these laws did not adequately address the other features…until 2017.

Assembly Bill 1785

On January 1, 2017, new restrictions took effect in California that prohibit drivers from holding phones or electronic devices for any reason while driving. The law does allow a single tap or single swipe to operate a phone as long as the device is mounted to the vehicle’s windshield or dashboard, without interfering with the driver’s view of the road.

Special notes about the law include:

  • Mobile devices must be equipped for voice-operated, hands-free operation, and used in that manner while driving.
  • Penalties are $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.
  • Emergency service professionals are exempt from the law while operating an emergency vehicle.
  • Anyone under 18 is still prohibited from using a wireless device at all while driving except in an emergency.

You can encourage compliance by establishing a safe driving policy that discourages employees from business calls, texts, teleconference, or webinar participation while driving. Ask employees to pledge to avoid distracted driving and keep their eyes on the road.

If your workers must use phone or navigation devices for business purposes while driving, provide appropriate equipment to mount the device and ensure they meet the requirement for voice-operated hands-free use.

Since you are not always with your employees during business travel, you have no idea what they are actually doing behind the wheel. But, by providing proper education, training, and the necessary equipment, they can remove the blindfold and have a better view of what’s happening in front of them.