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Does California Allow Cellphone Use While Driving?

In today’s society, cellphones have become an instrumental part of our everyday lives. Whether we use it to stay connected with friends and family at all times or keep up with current events, we are constantly glued to our cellphones.

Unfortunately, our constant dependency on these devices has resulted in the distracted driving epidemic. According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million accidents each year. In order to prevent these types of crashes from occurring, states throughout the country have instituted bans on cellphone use while driving.

Cellphones & Driving in California

California has several laws banning the use of cellphones while operating a vehicle.

One of them is a ban on all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. However, people may use cellphones to make an emergency call to the police, the fire department, an ambulance or any other emergency service agency. Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles may use cellphones will driving, as can individuals who are driving on private property.

The first offense is punishable by a $20 base fine, while a second or subsequent offense results in a $50 base fine. Keep in mind, an offender will need to pay much more than this base fine after all assessments are added. A first violation will likely add up to more than $150, and a second or subsequent offense can be more than $250.

Another law addresses the rules for hands-free cellphones, which depends on how old the driver is. In general, drivers who are at least 18 years of age or older are allowed to use hands-free phones—such as Bluetooth, other earpieces, or the speakerphone function—while driving. Fines for a hands-free cellphone violation are the same as those for a handheld cellphone violation.

The last law prohibits texting or any other use of a mobile device while driving. The following exceptions apply, however:

  • Emergency services professionals may use mobile devices while driving
  • It is permitted to turn on or off a mounted GPS if only a single tap or swipe is required
  • Using a system installed in the vehicle is also permitted

For more information, contact our Bakersfield criminal defense attorney at Campbell Whitten today.