California law prohibiting handheld cell phone usage while driving takes effect July 1st
On July 1st, 2008 California Vehicle Codes 23123 and 23124 take effect, prohibiting the use of handheld cellular phones while driving. There is no grace period and officers will be able to issue citations starting July 1st. The law, spawned by safety concerns about cell phone usage while driving, severely restricts handheld cellular phone usage.
Drivers 18 and older can use cell phones only with a hands-free device, such as Blue Tooth, while talking, but both ears cannot be covered. In addition, dialing while driving is discouraged, although it is not prohibited, so long as a hands-free device is used while speaking. Using a handheld telephone’s speaker function is also allowed while driving.
A first violation is punishable by a $20 fine and subsequent violations are $50. However, if a driver is cited for other violations, a first offense is $76 and a second offense is $190, according to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule.
Citations for cell phone violations while driving are reportable and WILL appear on your driving record. However, a citation for using a cell phone while driving will NOT result in a violation point.
Although text messaging is not specifically prohibited, an officer may pull drivers over for unsafe driving. Some argue that text messaging is, in fact, more dangerous than using a cell phone while driving, and criticize the law for omitting any specific reference to text messaging.
For minors, the law is even more stringent, completely banning any use of cell phones, pagers, laptops or any other electronics, including hands-free devices, to communicate while driving. According to the California Highway Patrol, this is because statistics show teen drivers are “more likely than older drivers to be involved in crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks.”
Officers can pull over drivers under the age of 18 for driving while using a handheld cell phone. An officer may not, however, pull over a minor for using a hands-free device because this is a secondary, rather than a primary violation.
In any event, a handheld cellular phone can be used during an emergency to call the police, fire department or other emergency services. In addition, the law does not apply to passengers.
- Before running out to purchase a hands-free device, check to see if your cell phone originally came with one.
- If not, most electronic stores sell hands-free devices, with the simplest around $5, to the more expensive BlueTooth option.
- Remember, most cell phones include a loudspeaker option, which you can use to communicate, hands-free, while driving.
- There may also be bargains online, such as here and here. You may even want to search eBay.
- It may also be wise to simply consider not using your cell phone while driving!