In the current technology age, CA drivers have struggled to stay away from our cell phone screens, even for the smallest amount of time, including while we are driving. In the past decade, a few laws have been created to limit the use of cell phones while driving, in order to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. Current traffic laws in California require that individual’s use hands-free means, such as a Bluetooth device, headphones, or speakerphone, while talking on their cell phone. In addition, they prohibit individuals from texting while driving, including opening/reading incoming texts and composing/sending outgoing texts. These measures had been created in order to prevent distracted driving and un-needed car crashes.
Governor Jerry Brown has taken measures to broaden the restrictions on cell phone use while driving, since cell phone capabilities have expanded and become more sophisticated since the original laws were created and further restrictions are needed to limit distracted driving. The new bill that Governor Brown signed back in September goes into affect on January 1, 2017 and expands on the existing laws, encompassing other distracting activities, such as taking pictures, streaming videos, or checking their Instagram. The new bill prohibits the use of a cell phone for any sort of activity while driving, unless the cell phone is in a hands free mode. It will be completely illegal to hold and operate any sort of electronic device (including both smartphones and GPS devices) while driving. If individuals need to use their cell phone while driving for any purpose, they must follow a certain set of restrictions.
Firstly, the cell phone must be mounted to the vehicle, either on the dashboard, center console, or in the left lower corner of the front windshield. The cell phone cannot be mounted anywhere that either impairs the driver’s view of the road or blocks the possible deployment of airbags, in case of a crash.
Secondly, if the driver must use their cell phone for any reason, the individual must use hands free technology, such as Bluetooth or the phone/car’s voice command function. If the individual must touch their phone’s screen for any reason, they are only allowed to do a single tap or swipe of their finger. In addition, only drivers over the age of 18 years old are allowed to use their phones under these hands free restrictions. Individuals under the age of 18 years old are not allowed to use their cell phones at all.
If an individual is caught using their cell phone while driving, a police officer may pull them over and issue a ticket. The base fine for an individual’s first violation is $20 and for every violation thereafter would be $50 each.
With all of this being said, please keep in mind that these laws are not meant to punish you, but rather to keep you, the other drivers on the road, and the pedestrians on the street safe. If you are going somewhere new, please make sure to set up your GPS before you leave the house and if you need to skip to the next song on your phone, make sure that you do so with only one tap and don’t take your eyes off of the road. In addition, no selfies or updating your social media accounts until you get where you are going. Distracted driving can lead to car crashes and even death, so it is important to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road!