UScellular reminds Virginians about the hands-free cell phone law that starts Jan. 1, especially during rainy, snowy and cold weather.

When roads get wet and temperatures drop, road conditions can deteriorate quickly. According to Insurify, Virginia is the fifth most dangerous state in America for driving. A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates 17 percent of all vehicle crashes occur during the wintertime with about 70 percent of the U.S. population living in snowy regions.

Anxious drivers may also be tempted to reach for their cell phones while navigating roads, but beside being dangerous, it will soon be illegal. Virginia drivers are required to put their phones down while driving starting Jan. 1, according to legislation enacted earlier this year.

“Inclement road conditions can be tricky for anyone to navigate, so it’s important that drivers remain safe by keeping their eyes on the road and keeping their hands off their devices while driving,” Bertram Daniels, area sales manager for UScellular said. “By utilizing their phone’s built-in hands-free features as well as the right accessories, drivers can stay connected to essential information and resources, while still obeying the law and driving safely.”

The following are winter weather driving tips from UScellular:

• Check for plows. During times of heavy snowfall, commuting around the neighborhood, to work, to the grocery store or during an emergency can be a dangerous task. Before leaving home, check out vdotplows.org to see live updates on where snowplows are deployed around the state.

• Put it down. Many vehicles are equipped with Bluetooth connections that allow drivers to utilize phone features and applications completely hands-free. Single-ear headsets, digital dashboards and car mounts for mobile devices can also keep your hands on the wheel and off your device.

• Establish and maintain connections. In addition to making sure their devices are charged, drivers should also carry a car charger or backup power source like the Lander Cairn XL Smart Lantern + Power Bank, which doubles as a charger and flashlight. To conserve battery life, manufacturers suggest lowering screen brightness, enabling power-saving mode and closing unnecessary applications.

• Navigate routes. Mobile devices make it easy to prepare for travel, regardless of the distance. Route navigation through apps such as Waze, Apple Maps or Google Maps can give drivers verbal guidance, alert them of changing road conditions due to traffic, construction or weather — and provide alternative routes. Helpful resources for checking road and traffic conditions nationwide can also be found at SafeTravelUSA.com as well as the NOAA Snow Report & Forecast for iOS, which provides comprehensive snow reports that are updated hourly. And if drivers need to get off the road or refuel, iExit is a helpful app that notifies drivers if gas stations, hotels and stores are available at upcoming highway exits.

• Prevent phone freeze. It is important to note that mobile technology was not built to withstand long-term exposure to extremely cold temperatures, which can negatively impact device performance and battery life, while increasing the potential for breaks and cracks. For optimal performance, users should avoid storing devices in frigid places — such as a parked car. If a phone powers off due to the cold, give it time to warm up to room temperature before turning it back on rather than using heating aids like a blow dryer.

• Plan ahead. Now is a good time to make sure emergency contacts, insurance cards and other pertinent information is up-to-date and available. Consider activating the Share Your Location feature in Google Maps for both iOS and Android or downloading Find My Friends for iOS to allow select family and friends access to recent and real-time whereabouts, allowing them to check trip status and estimated time of arrival without a call or text. 

To learn more about mobile technology and smart-driving capabilities from UScellular, visit a local store.

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