California’s Cell Phone Law

Effective July 1, 2008, the legislation prohibits drivers from using a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle unless the driver uses a hands-free device. Drivers who violate the law will face a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. It seems this would be a good time to consider the best earbuds under $50 to use for driving phone calls don’t you think? These fines are a little low in my opinion since the outcome of a distracted driver often causes injury and death, and here is when injury attorneys could be really of help, to get the right compensation if this situation happen to them, and you can even go to the website, to find the best lawyers for this.

Governor Schwarzenegger — Public Safety: California Highway Patarol

SEC. 3. Section 12810.3 is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:
(a) Notwithstanding subdivision (f) of Section 12810, a violation point shall not be given for a conviction of a violation of subdivision (a) of Section 23123.
(b) The section shall become operative on July 1, 2008.

SEC. 4. Section 23123 is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:
(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 42001 or any other provision of law, a violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

Read SB 1613 in it’s entirety.

A follow up to Leslie’s comment below…

SB 33 prohibits teens from using cell phones or any other “mobile service device” while driving. The fines are the same as those above.

SEC. 4. Section 23124 is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:
(a) This section applies to a person under the age of 18 years.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 23123, a person described in subdivision (a) shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a
wireless telephone, even if equipped with a hands-free device, or while using a mobile service device.

Update: I was wondering if using your speaker phone feature complies with the new law. Technically, it’s hands-free and no different than pushing the on/off button for an ear piece setup. Many phones even have voice dialing so what’s the difference? According to the DMV, speaker phone use is OK.

Q: Does the new ?hands-free? law prohibit you from dialing a wireless telephone while driving or just talking on it?
A: The new law does not prohibit dialing, but drivers are strongly urged not to dial while driving.

Q: Will it be legal to use a Bluetooth or other earpiece?
A: Yes, however you cannot have BOTH ears covered.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law allow you to use the speaker phone function of your wireless telephone while driving?
A: Yes.

Q: Does the new ?hands-free? law allow drivers 18 and over to text message while driving?
A: The law does not specifically prohibit that, but an officer can pull over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer?s opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely. Sending text messages while driving is unsafe at any speed and is strongly discouraged.

Update: Effective January 1, 2009 – Text Messaging (SB 28/Simitian) This new law makes it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, while driving.

11 thoughts on “California’s Cell Phone Law

  1. I think our provincial government is looking at doing somethings similar. I don’t know what it is like in California…but you can always tell who is on a cell phone up here….

  2. We got this law fairly recently in New Mexico. The number of people with those bluetooth earphone attachments has jumped waaaaaay up.

  3. Thought this came into effect this month. Glad to see I have a little more time to invest in my hands free/blue tooth.

  4. I thought the law said that anyone under the age of 18 was not permitted to use any sort of phone, not even a hands free device. If you are over the age of 18 you may use hands free.

  5. Using one hand on the phone is not the problem, its the fact that a person is not concentrating on the road while having a conversation with someone. Watch, I bet that this stupid law will not have any effect because people will still be distracted using those retarded bluetooth ear pieces.

  6. I just have one HUGE problem about this law… I, as a California driver, now have no way of knowing if a driver with a headset is actually talking on their cell phone. And let us admit it… talking on the cell phone while driving, with or without a headset, takes away the driver’s attention.

    The only way I could determine if a driver with a cell phone would be a danger to me was to see if they have their cell phone held up to their ear.

    What CA government should have done was banning cell phones from all Class C drivers while driving. So when any one of them is breaking the law by having their cell phone held up to their ear, everyone else can see that and distance themselves from that driver.

  7. come on who are they kidding. This law will have no effect what so ever. A driver is just as easily distracted with a passenger as they are with a phone conversation. And did anyone pay attention to the law as it is written? It is illegal to have the phone up to your ear but NOT in your hand while you send a text to someone. That’s a good idea let’s all send “TEXT” messages and totally take our eyes off the road. Some real smart politician put a lot of thought into this law. Just another way to dip into the californian wallets with no justification to back it.

  8. hello, i got a citation last dec 8 while driving to LAX. on the 405 fwy, i was not using the phone, i was looking at the time while i got stop, the officer gave a ticket and now i just got on the mail a bail out for $139.00 , i m going to court, i read the vehicle code all over , the dmv, and all kind of instruction books and it mention only $20 first offence and 50 the next, im very upset and dissapointed at the law, can anybody give an advice

  9. Will, the first thing I’d check is to make sure the citation is for using the cell phone. You may have been cited for something else like “distracted driving”. Second, contact the court and see if they can explain it to you. It may be that the fine is $20 but there are court fees included or that’s the the fee if you take drivers’ ed to remove it from your record. I’ll see if I can find more info.

    Note this from the DMV website.

    Q: What is the fine if I’m convicted?

    A: The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. With the addition of penalty assessments, the fine can be more than triple the base fine amount.

  10. thank you for your advice, i went to court to contest the citation, i had to pay the $139.00 and set a new court date for next month, i called several times to the courthouse and they keep telling me *its court fees**, so i must fight this , i think its an abuse and rippoff, if i dont win the case i will contact an attorney , but not before i made public all this case to the media
    people should know what they are dealing with , im still very upset

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