This California Cell Phone Law Prohibits Drivers from Using Their Phones

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Many of us like the idea of multi-tasking and because we want to maximize our time. However, by doing so we can sometimes make errors in judgment that can become costly. 

For example, instead of waiting until we have reached our destination to talk with our friends and family, we may send text messages and place calls – activities that are strictly against California’s cell phone law.

As you’ll soon find out there are numerous reasons why California’s cell phone law was passed and why it must be followed. You will also learn more about what the law entails, including punishments that can be handed out to violators.

Let’s dive into the importance of this California cell phone law.

The Alarming Statistics Concerning Distracted Driving

All over the country, different laws have already been enacted in the hopes of curbing distracted driving. For those who may think that those laws are unnecessary or that they are addressing a non-existent issue, the statistics paint a different picture.

Via Go Safely California, 54% of drivers in the Golden State said in a survey that they have already experienced either getting hit, or nearly getting hit, by another driver who was texting and/or calling while driving.

That statistic becomes less surprising when you consider that people are three times more likely to be involved in a crash if they are performing other tasks such as dialing, texting, or even just reaching for their cell phone.

The numbers only get more upsetting.

Statistics also show that around 10% of drivers aged 20 or younger who were involved in a fatal car crash were distracted. In 2014, an alarming 431,000 people sustained injuries from accidents that featured the participation of distracted drivers.

Across the country, 3,179 people were killed in crashes that involved distracted drivers. The threat posed by distracted drivers is very real. They are not just involved in rare cases.

If you think that you can skillfully manage to simultaneously drive and fiddle with your phone, you must reconsider. Failing to do so could prove costly for yourself, your passengers, and other drivers who are sharing the road with you.

distracted driver

Why Distracted Driving Can Be Dangerous

We looked at how drivers become more likely to get distracted when they are performing another task on top of driving, but why is that the case? Are people not capable of multi-tasking effectively?

A previously published white paper by the National Safety Council points to some of the reasons why multi-tasking is not a good idea when you are on the road.

First of all the paper wants to highlight a fundamental reality about multi-tasking that many of us fail to grasp. Specifically, it highlights the fact that we are not technically capable of multi-tasking.

When we attempt to multi-task, our brain simply moves back and forth between the tasks we are trying to perform. The brain tries its best go from one task to the other very quickly to complete them in rapid succession, but they are not actually being performed at the exact same time. The brain has to compensate for what you’re doing by diverting both your attention and focus.

Given how your brain works, there are problems that can emerge. You may develop inattention blindness when you attempt to do two things at the same time. Inattention blindness takes place when you are doing something like looking out of the windshield of your car, but fail to see everything you need to because your field of vision has become narrower.

Another issue that could stem from distracted driving is your response time slowing down. Due in part to your attention and focus shifting from one task to another, you become unable to respond to stimuli at the same rate that you used to. Your reaction time needs to be on point if you want to avoid close calls on the road.

Even something as simple as staying inside your designated lane on the road can prove to be an immense challenge if you are distracted. That may be because you need more visual stimuli to maintain your lane, which is harder when you aren’t even seeing everything in front of you.

Given how much your skills can be impaired when you are distracted behind the wheel, it’s surprising that more people don’t end up in accidents.

How Is the California Cell Phone Law Attempting to Curb Distracted Driving?

Now that you have a firmer grasp on how distracted driving affects us and our fellow drivers, it becomes easier to understand why California has gotten serious about the issue.

First off, it’s important to note that there is more than one law that is governing the use of cell phones on the road. In some cases, there is even some leeway given to drivers regarding cell phone usage. We’ll get to those in a bit.

Let’s start with the main law, which is the one that prohibits California drivers from using their cell phones. The law is straightforward and it dictates that the driver of a vehicle is not allowed to use a cell phone if they have to touch it. You are also not allowed to read anything from your cell phone while you are driving.

If you are caught touching your cell phone to use it while you are driving, you will be hit with a fine. According to Autolist, the standard fine if you are caught violating the California cell phone ban for drivers is $20, but don’t expect that to be the final amount you will have to pay. There are other assessments that will likely cause your fine to increase significantly.

In all likelihood, the amount you will have to pay the first time you violate this California law is around $150.

Drivers who are found to be in violation of the cell phone ban multiple times will have to pay a standard fine of $50. Again, because there are other assessments that have to be factored into the equation, a violator will have to pay more than just $50. The final fine for a repeat offender is likely to end up being $250.

Does the Cell Phone Ban Also Outlaw the Use of Hands-Free Devices?

Since you have to touch your cell phone to violate the ban, does that mean that you can continue using your device if you have hands-free equipment? For many drivers, the answer to that question is yes.

In order to operate your cell phone while driving, you must also use a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth earpiece. However, there are limitations on how you use the Bluetooth earpiece, since you can only use it to cover one ear.

Another way to get around the California cell phone law is to activate the speaker on your cell phone. Put your device on speakerphone before you enter your car if you want to talk with someone while driving.

Take note that the exceptions mentioned above apply to most, but not all drivers. You have to be 18 years old or older if you want to use hands-free cell phones and other hands-free devices inside your car while you are driving.

Drivers who are under 18 years old are prohibited from using hands-free devices and other electronic communication devices while they are behind the wheel.

Young drivers who are found to be in violation of these laws will be hit with the same fees mentioned earlier.

How Are These Cell Phone Bans Enforced?

The bans on cell phones and hands-free cell phones are not enforced in the same way. That’s because the former is a primary enforcement law and the latter is a secondary enforcement law.

If a police officer spots you using your cell phone with your hands, they can ask you to pull over solely for that offense. When it comes to the ban on hands-free cell phones for younger drivers, police officers cannot just ask you to stop if you have violated it. They can only give you a ticket for that offense if you have committed a separate offense.

using directions

Are There Any Exceptions to the California Cell Phone Laws?

While it is generally a bad idea to use your cell phone while you are driving, the laws governing their usage in California do recognize that there are times when you will need to operate your mobile device.

The first exception applies to using GPS. You are allowed to turn your GPS on or off if it is mounted on your center console or dash. However, you must be able to do so with only a single swipe or tap. Otherwise, you will be in violation of the ban.

Drivers are also permitted to use their GPS devices while they are on the road, but they can only do so with the aid of voice commands. If you held the GPS device to use it, you have already violated the ban.

You may find it easier to simply get a car that already comes with an integrated navigation system, since the ban does not bar you from using that.

There are other exceptions for drivers using electronic devices. For example, if you have to place a call to an emergency service, you are fully permitted to use your cell phone while driving. You also don’t have to worry about being caught up in the cell phone ban if you are just driving on private property.

Drivers of emergency vehicles are also exempt from the California cell phone bans.

It is also important to note that the cell phone bans do not apply to passengers. They can continue to use their devices as they desire.

Is It Okay to Use a Cell Phone During a Red Light?

One potential gray area regarding the cell phones laws instituted by the state of California concerns being stopped at a stoplight. To be more specific, there may be drivers out there who assume that because they are not technically driving while stopped at a red light, that means they can use their phone.

That is not the case. You can still be pulled over by a police offer if you are caught using your cell phone at a red light, as noted in this article from The Press-Enterprise.

The best thing you can do if you absolutely have to use your phone, while in a non-emergency situation, is to pull over for a while and take care of what you need to. That momentary delay in your day is worth taking, as opposed to paying hundreds of dollars in fines, or potentially endangering yourself and others.

A Few More Reminders Regarding Distracted Driving

Although the focus here is on addressing distracted driving stemming from cell phone usage, you should know that there are other things that can cause you to become an unsafe and unfocused driver.

The California Office for Traffic Safety points out that other activities, such as eating, getting dressed, and reaching for objects on the floor, can also lead to you getting distracted. If you are seen doing those things while driving, you can be ticketed for reckless driving.

Keep yourself from getting into car accidents by avoiding those distractions.

What You Can Do If You Are Victimized by a Distracted Driver

Even with the laws currently in place, there will be drivers who will stubbornly continue to insist that they can drive safely on the road with a cell phone in their hands.

If you ever find yourself in a car accident caused by the actions of an irresponsible and distracted driver, you need to keep your best interests in mind. This is especially true because there may be huge repair and medical bills coming in your future.

Make taking on those daunting challenges easier by hiring a personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Batta Fulkerson will work with you every step of the way to ensure that you receive the appropriate amount of compensation.

Call or send an email to Batta Fulkerson now for a consultation and to learn more about they can help you.