California Law Makes it Illegal to Hold Cell Phone While Driving

As of January 1, 2017, drivers throughout California are prohibited from driving and holding their cell phones.  The bill, AB 1785, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September. According to the law, drivers are prohibited from holding a cell phone and operating their vehicle for any reason, including texting, talking, and checking maps.

According to California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5, individuals may use their cell phone while driving if the phones are configured to be voice-operated and hands-free.  The phone must be used in this manner while driving.  In other words, driving while holding and operating a device is an offense.

The law does provide that one hand may be used to operate a wireless telephone or wireless communications device, in certain circumstances. A device mounted on a windshield, much as a Global Positioning System is mounted, can be operated by one hand.  However, the driver may only activate or deactivate features through a single swipe or by tapping their finger.

Emergency services professionals, such as ambulance drivers, are not subject to the law when operating an emergency vehicle as part of their work duties.  The new law is listed as a driving offense, and it lists the fines for violations, which begin at a base of $20 and rise for each subsequent offense.

Update to Older Laws Restricting Talking and Texting While Driving

Since 2006, California has restricted the use of cell phones while driving.  Over the course of a decade, phones have developed more capabilities, and the new laws seek to address this by restricting any potentially distracting conduct.  While older laws specifically banned texting or talking while driving, the new law prohibits taking photographs, playing videos, and checking maps.  In other words, the purpose of the new law is to clarify that using any device in one hand while driving is prohibited.

The policy reason for banning the use of handheld devices while driving is to reduce the risk of motor vehicle collisions.  Drivers who remove their eyes from the road and take their hands off the wheel to use a phone can cause an accident in just a matter of seconds.  Often termed “distracted driving,” this conduct is a large contributing factor in many car crashes.  Updating older laws to encompass all of the potential uses of a phone or device helps to ensure the safety of other drivers and those sharing the road.

Individuals who continue to use a cell phone in their hand while driving will not only face potential fines but can be liable for any resulting injury and damage to others in a personal injury lawsuit.  Victims of car crashes can pursue their right to recovery through filing a legal claim against an at-fault party.

At Sharifi Firm, we help car crash victims as well as pedestrians injured by the negligence of distracted drivers.  Throughout Southern California, we have helped individuals and their families seek compensation for their accident-related costs.  Our office provides a consultation with a skilled car accident attorney at no cost.  We can be reached by calling (866) 422-7222 or through our online form.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Determines Substantial Evidence Supported the Jury Verdict When Driver’s Failure to Properly Observe Intersection was not Negligent as a Matter of Law, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 27, 2016

California Appellate Court Upholds Finding that Plaintiff Partially Caused Motor Vehicle Collision, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog,  April 7, 2016

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