Distracted driving is no joke. Engaging in this dangerous behavior puts yourself, your passengers and other vehicles at risk. In a day and age where people seemed to be attached to their smart phones, using a cell phone while driving (without the proper headset) continues to be the number one cause of distracted driving related accidents.
Not only can using your cell phone while driving be dangerous, many uses are also illegal and can cost you. Do you know your local safety laws when it comes to cell phone use while driving? Here are the California cell phone safety laws for drivers:
Talking on the Phone while Driving
While on the road, drivers are always required to use a hands-free device to talk on the phone. Hands-free devices can include using the speaker phone function on your cell phone, a bluetooth headset, or any other sort of hands-free device. However, both ears cannot be covered. If you are caught violating this law (talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device), your first offense is a $20 ticket, and your second offense is $50, in addition to any penalty assessments. Often, these additional charges and make this ticket well over a $100 fine. This conviction will appear on your driving record, however no points will be given against you.
Texting while Driving
Any text-based form of communication on your phone while driving is illegal. This includes text messaging, emailing and any other text-based form of communication. The charges for texting while driving are the same as for talking on the phone while driving ($20 for your first offense, $50 for your second plus any additional penalty assessments).
Using GPS while Driving
A more recent law, passed in March 2013, has clarified that the ban on texting while driving also includes the use of the GPS or map functions on a cell phone. If these functions need to be used, you should pull of to the side of the road to do so. Or, invest in a hands-free device like a dash-dock. Otherwise, you will be suceptible to the same penalties as you would for texting while behind the wheel.
Restrictions for Drivers Under 18
Drivers under 18, who are found to be the most at-risk for distracted driving, have restricted cell phone privileges that prohibit any form of electronic communication while behind the wheel. This includes any text-based form of communication, as well as the use of a hands-free device. Though hands-free devices may be used by drivers over 18, minors behind the wheel may not use them. The only exception to this rule is using a cell phone to call in the case of an emergency. Again, the penalties for minors who use their cell phones while driving are the same for texting while driving.
It is important to note that even if you are just visiting California, all of the above laws still apply.
If you do intend to talk on the phone while driving, be sure to use a hands-free device and use your best judgement. Do not try to have important phone conversations in busy traffic or during rush hour. Don’t answer a ringing phone while driving unless you have your hands free device on and it is safe to do so. If you need to make an emergency call, pull off to the side of the road or nearest exit before calling. Following these guidelines will not only keep you from getting stuck with a hefty fine, they’ll also help keep you and the rest of the drivers on the road that much safer.