We live in an ever evolving world! What was the case ten years ago…or ten days ago for that matter (at least when it comes to technology..) may not be the case today. So what should you consider when preparing for your next solo mission, annual friends trip, or family getaway via automobile?

1. Research city, state and country laws regarding cell phone use while driving.

Do you know the rules regarding cell phone usage, while operating a vehicle for your entire state, and the upcoming locations on your travel agenda as well? While one state may require hands free, another may not. To my surprise, I found that the laws can even differ from city to city within the same state. To avoid getting a hefty ticket, it’s important to do your homework in advance.

While on a recent assignment that begun in one state, and ended in another country,  I discovered that the laws varied across the board. This particular trip started out in one suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where hands free use is not required, although it is in other parts, and ended in an entirely different country. I failed to do my research on the rules for the upcoming destinations, and fortunately found out without any major consequences. I mistakenly discovered Pennsylvania’s law, while passing through a toll. A really kind toll worker informed me that I was ”not allowed to use my cell phone while driving, and that I was risking taking back an expensive souvenir from that state if I did” – yep a pricey ticket. Thus, I wisely decided to restrain from use until I made my 1st stop. That prompted me to inquire what the law was for hand held devices in New York, which was the next scheduled stop. If you guessed…  hands free only in that state, you are correct. According to law, the use of a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive in NY is a no no, unless you are calling 911, medical, fire or police personnel in that state. The prize for your “must have,” conversation if you insist, can include a traffic ticket, with a  “nice” fine, and even possible points being added to your DMV record if convicted. Next up, was Canada! Uncertain of their laws regarding cell phone use, I once again decided to postpone having any conversations until I reached a stopping point. I later found out that hand held mobile devices were indeed against the law in that country, while driving also. Therefore, during my Canadian assignment, I postponed talking altogether while in the car. Of course texting is forbidden while operating a vehicle just about everywhere now, as it should be.

For those of you like me, who still enjoy hand held over hands free, this is important information. Of course most calls can wait. I agree with those of you who are thinking, “What’s so important,” as you read this post, but quite honestly, I rather enjoy chatting a bit on the open road in between portions of my lengthy highway stretches. I admit I spend the bulk of the time listening to music, but there are those moments when I have the urge to call someone… just to break up the monotony of the drive. I’m old school, so I actually like for the other person to clearly hear me amidst any background noise, as opposed to shouting into the dashboard during my conversations. What can I say… it irritates me. I’m also not a fan of those bulky, uncomfortable ear pieces either. Just give me a phone, or it can wait! So, if you are anything like me (you prefer hand held,) I would suggest keeping a heavy rotation of best hits in play for the ride, and save the talking for those pit stops and bathroom breaks. If you find that your upcoming travel plans include hands free only states, or destinations that forbid cell phone usage completely, grab a cup of coffee and prep yourself for the ride, minus conversation!

2. What are the laws regarding speeding tickets/fines?

Tickets can vary big time from place to place; i.e. cost of speeding tickets in construction zones (which the highway always seems to have,) certain towns, city’s etc, as well as the laws for minors if you have a teen with you who plans to assist during the drive. Fines can increase in certain areas for those operating vehicles under 21yrs. Know where you’re going, and what to expect. Nobody likes “bad” surprises.

Let me be clear…I am NOT suggesting you plan to break any traffic related laws, I’m simply recommending you do your homework should you accelerate in error, or make any unlawful phone calls by accident. On that note, slow down, and hang up if they require you to! Doing your research prior to, can spare you later trouble. Laws change regularly. You don’t want to find yourself having a conversation with an officer pleading that you, “did not know you couldn’t make a phone call in that city/state/country.”

Have a great, safe, and well informed next trip!

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Driving through Pennsylvania