Photo by Blake Patterson (Flickr: the iOS family pile (2012)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by Blake Patterson (Flickr: the iOS family pile (2012)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
You won’t be allowed to use your cell phone while driving starting Sunday unless the phone is mounted on the dashboard or windshield.

It won’t matter starting New Year’s Day if you’re driving hands free, a new state law will require you to mount the phone as well as not touch it.

That’s only one of a number of new laws going into effect in 2017 that may directly affect you.

Child safety seats will also come under new requirements.

AB 53, authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Downey, requires that all children under 2 years old be secured in a rear-facing child safety restraint system. Existing law states that children under 8 years old must be strapped into a child safety seat, but there’s no special requirement about rear-facing seats for toddlers, though that option is always available.

“Rear-facing child safety seats support the child’s head and may prevent the large head from moving independently of the proportionately smaller neck,” preventing serious physical trauma, according to a statement attached to AB 53.

The bill provides exemptions for children who weigh more than 40 pounds, or are more than 40 inches tall. In those instances, a parent or guardian will be permitted to place the tot in a front-facing safety seat.

Violating the law will result in an infraction that carries a $100 penalty.

As for those cell phones, AB 1785, authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, mandates that anyone using a wireless communications device while driving must have it mounted on the dashboard or windshield.

State law currently permits motorists to use cell phones or other wireless devices — as long as they are not holding the units while driving.

Quirk’s legislation specifies that the devices must be mounted or “embedded” in a vehicle’s interior panel. The only time a driver is allowed to touch the device is when he or she is activating or deactivating a “feature or function.” However, that process should only involve a “single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger,” according to the bill.

A Senate analysis of AB 1785 noted that “in 2015, there were 12 fatal collisions involving handheld cell phone use as an inattention factor, over 500 injury collisions and nearly 700 property damage collisions” statewide.

Violating the law will result in a $20 fine.

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