California’s taking a strong approach to banning the use of cellphones while operating a vehicle. California now has 3 laws in effect, the first law prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones and the second prohibits drivers under 18 years of age from using hands-free cellphones. A third law bans texting and other wireless device use while driving.
California’s restrictions on cellphone use while driving is a nationwide trend. Many states also prohibit the use of handheld cellphones while driving and are also placing multiple restrictions for young drivers. The laws have been put in place in efforts to decrease the rate of automobile accidents. Studies have suggested that drivers using cellphones are more distracted which increase the risk of accidents. With the yearly change of traffic laws and regulations in California, it can be confusing and hard to correctly understand and comprehend the restrictions.
California’s laws only prohibit drivers operating an automobile from using handheld cellphones and doesn’t affect passengers, they are free to use cellphones while traveling in an automobile. The law applies to anyone driving in California, whether the driver is a resident of California or not. Few exceptions apply to the first law. Handheld cellphones may be used in the following cases:
- To make an emergency call to law enforcement, fire department, medical personnel, or any other emergency service agency
- Operating an authorized emergency vehicles
- Operating vehicles on private property
The second law for hands-free cellphones use while driving differs depends on age of the driver.
Drivers who are at least 18 years old are allowed to use hands-free phones while driving. 18+ drivers can use a Bluetooth / earpiece that does not cover both ears. The law also allows 18+ drivers to use the speaker phone function of a cellphone.
The law is very restrictive for drivers who are 18 or under. Underage drivers cannot use a wireless telephone, pager, or any other electronic communication device regardless if it’s handheld or hands-free while driving. The only exception is in case of emergency situations, they can use a wireless phone of any kind to call to law enforcement, fire department, and/or medical personnel.
The third law prohibits texting or any other use of a wireless device while driving. The exceptions for this would include:
- Emergency services professionals while operating an authorized emergency vehicle
- Turning on/off a mounted GPS system where one tap or swipe is required to do so
- Use of a manufacturer-installed system that’s embedded in the vehicle.
So although operating a vehicle and cellphone at the same time comes second nature nowadays, we must remember that we are putting out lives at risk. Answering a call, replying to a text, or checking social media streams can wait.