Everyone believes that safety is a top priority. But a lot of us don’t practice what we preach.
In 2018, more than 36,000 Americans were killed in motor vehicle accidents. More than four million Americans required medical attention after an accident.
Traffic laws are in place to keep us safe. But not all laws stand the test of time. State legislatures and federal agencies conceive of new traffic laws every year.
Understand new driving laws and you can avoid tickets and promote safety. Here is a quick guide.
Virginia’s New Traffic Laws
Virginia is cracking down on handheld devices. Effective on January 1, 2021, it is unlawful for any driver to hold a handheld personal communications device.
You can use your phone when you are parked or stopped. You can also use your phone to report an emergency. But you cannot hold your phone while you are driving.
You can make a phone call if the phone is not in your hand. You can use a hands-free device, make a call through Bluetooth, or let someone in the car hold your phone.
The first offense can lead to a fine of up to $125. Subsequent offenses can result in fines of $250. Any use of a handheld device in a highway work zone results in an automatic fine of 250 dollars.
Drivers who apply for their licenses are required to study distracted driving. At least one question about distracted driving will appear on their exams.
Another law allows undocumented immigrants to receive a driver privilege card. This allows undocumented immigrants to operate motor vehicles in the state. Holders cannot receive a commercial driver’s license.
Arizona has passed its own hands-free law. Starting on January 1, 2021, drivers cannot hold their personal communications devices while driving.
Arizona’s law is more lenient than Virginia’s. Drivers can use their devices at stoplights.
They can also stop and start a call if the phone is not in their hands. They can use the GPS to navigate, and they can input information into it if it is not in their hands.
The law states that it is illegal to hold a device with your body while you are driving. You cannot hold it in your hand or prop it on your shoulder. But you can use a device on your wrist or an earpiece.
You cannot read, write, or send a message. No texting of any kind is allowed while you are driving. You cannot scroll through social media or watch or record videos.
The first offense can result in a fine of $75 to $149. Subsequent offenses lead to fines between $150 and $250.
California has had a hands-free law for years. The California Legislature passed a new law to increase the penalty for repeat offenders.
Starting on July 1, 2021, a second offense within three years of a first offense leads to a point on your driving record. The law applies to people who hold their phone while driving, regardless of the reason for it. You can use a hands-free system to make a phone call.
Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use a smartphone at all. If they do, they can have their license suspended or incur points.
To increase the safety of first responders, California has passed a “Move Over, Slow Down” law. Motorists approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights must move into another lane or slow down. Violations can result in a fine of $50.
Emergency vehicles can use a “Hi-Lo” warning sound while operating. This sound indicates that an area needs to be evacuated.
Another law involves children left unattended in vehicles. A bystander can trespass or damage a vehicle to rescue a child under the age of six. The child must be in immediate danger from something like heat or cold.
State Safety Ratings
There is plenty of room for states to improve their driver and passenger safety. States like New York are passing laws requiring passengers in the back seat to wear seat belts. But other states like Missouri are repealing important laws like motorcycle helmet requirements.
16 states do not require front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. 19 states do not restrict the cell phone use of drivers. Despite national publicity on the dangers of texting while driving, four states do not have restrictions on it.
Only eight states showed significant improvement in traffic laws over 2020. 12 states, including Arizona, fell behind national standards. It remains to be seen if these states can catch up.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is cracking down on odometer fraud. Odometers indicate how many miles a vehicle has traveled. The more miles, the more likely the vehicle will break down.
Some people manipulate the odometer, showing a low reading. The DOT requires disclosures of the odometer readings for every transfer of ownership.
A person selling a vehicle must testify that the odometer provides the actual mileage. If they lie, a court can convict them of fraud.
All vehicles from Model Year 2011 onward fall under the odometer rules for 20 years. Vehicles that are older fall under the rules for 10 years.
Stay Safe on the Road
The law protects you, even when you are driving. New traffic laws restrict activities that can cause distractions and lead to accidents.
Virginia and Arizona have passed hands-free laws. Drivers cannot hold and operate a phone while driving. California has increased the penalties for its hands-free law while protecting emergency responders.
More strides need to be made. Many states lack requirements to wear seatbelts. National car laws control odometer fraud, but more work needs to be done to protect drivers and passengers.
One way you can protect yourself is through defensive driving. DriveSafe Online provides premium defensive driving classes at affordable prices. Request a free demo today.