Why is it that drivers slam on their brakes when they’re speeding past cops, but don’t turn down their music, hide their cell phones, or remove their GPS? In many places in the U.S., having the music turned up too loudly or even holding your cellphone may be considered unlawful actions, and could lead to you being pulled over and ticketed.
Blasting your latest favorite jam while cruising down the highway can get you in trouble with the law. Even though there really isn’t a national law in place to protect from loud noise, cities across the country use ordinances to regulate music volume, and drivers have been slapped with some pretty hefty fines because of it.
Noise laws can be crafted in a few ways. One of the most popular ways of indicating something is too loud is that it’s “plainly audible” from a certain distance away (anywhere from 15 to 100 feet, depending on the ordinance). Another way of determining an unacceptable volume is by decibel level, which is a little more difficult to monitor but also more objective.
Proponents and opponents of the ordinances have debated their fairness and constitutionality for years. The arguments have been so back-and-forth that the Florida Supreme Court is going to hear a case about the issue in February. Issues about objectivity and constitutional rights are what cause most of the controversy in terms of these regulations. While waiting to see what the court will say, try to keep your volume down.
When setting up a car GPS, it’s probably your instinct to put the device somewhere in your scope of vision, so you can keep your eye on the road as much as possible. However, there’s another perspective that points out how introducing a visual obstruction can create a new blind spot for drivers.
That’s why some cities and states have laws regarding what can be put in the windshield of a vehicle and what can’t. In some places, having a GPS mounted on your windshield can be a primary offense, which means that police can pull you over for that reason alone.
California has been regulating the placement of objects in cars that can obstruct the driver’s view. Recently, the law became a little more lenient when it allowed GPS devices to be mounted in windshields — however, they can only be placed in bottom corner of the windshield instead of toward the top where most people choose to put theirs.
If you’ve turned on the news once in the last year, you’ve probably seen coverage about the dangers of texting while driving and the proposition of laws that ban it. These concerns gave rise to dozens of laws throughout the country that prohibit or limit texting while driving.
More than 30 states have banned texting while driving, and for most of them it’s a primary enforcement. In some states that haven’t banned it, some localities take it upon themselves to ban texting. However, other states, like Nevada and Kentucky, don’t allow localities to enact laws of this type.
A handful of states don’t have sweeping bans for texting while driving, but do regulate who can text while driving. For example, Mississippi doesn’t allow bus drivers to text and drive at the same time, and people with a learner’s permit aren’t allowed to text while driving, either.
Talking on the Phone
Texting and driving limitations have received all kinds of public attention recently, but there are several state-wide cellphone bans already in place. Nine states prohibit any driver from using a handheld cellphone while driving, and eight of those consider the offense a primary enforcement.
While most states don’t ban the use of handheld phones, many of them limit general cellphone use in some way, for example, like banning bus drivers or people under the age of 18 from using a cellphone at all. Thirty states and Washington, D.C.have banned cellphone use for their definition of novice drivers.
Because these types of laws tend to be enforced on a state or local level, make sure to check your area and read up on the laws you have to obey. These issues are still being debated, so it’s definitely possible that legislation will change. Make sure you stay updated!