Distracted driving behaviors like dialing, talking, or texting on cell phones are dangerous. Other distractions like eating, grooming, reading, reaching for objects, and changing clothes are just as dangerous. These distractions take your mind, hands, and eyes off of driving and increase the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
A base fine for a first offense of using a cell phone or similar electronic device while operating a motor vehicle is $20. The base fine for a second offense is $50. The actual amount you’ll pay once fees are added will be significantly more ($150 for a first offense and $250 for a second or subsequent offense). Your vehicle insurance costs will probably increase as well. After July 1st, 2021, the DMV will assess one point for a cell phone violation if the violation was within 36 months of a previous conviction of a similar offense.
If the cost doesn’t convince you to keep your mind, hands, and eyes on the road, the number of deaths and injuries should. Driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle collisions and near collisions. According to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Teach Transportation Institute (VTTI) 80 percent of collisions involved some form of driver distraction. According to the NHTSA, in 2018, 2,841 people died, and an estimated additional 400,000 people were injured in motor vehicles involving distracted drivers. Car occupants are not the only people killed or injured. In 2018, 506 pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-occupants were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2018. Can you imagine killing or injuring someone just because you didn’t want to take a minute to pull off the road to a safe place and park while using your phone? And just because you’re stopped at a light doesn’t mean it’s okay to use your phone or electronic device. The law applies to stop signs and stop lights, too.
In California, you can only use a cell phone or similar electronic device in a hands-free manner such as in speaker phone, voice command, or one touch mode, but never while holding it. This means, if the phone is mounted, you can swipe or tap the screen ONCE to activate a feature. You cannot swipe or tap it several times to enter words for a text or email. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone for any reason while driving. This law doesn’t apply when a motorist uses a cellphone while driving on private property or places a call for emergency services. Be careful where you mount the phone, too – it cannot obstruct the driver’s view of the road. California Vehicle Code Section 26708, paragraph 12, describes where you are allowed to mount a phone, GPS device, or other electronic devices.
More information on distracted driving can be found in the California Driver Handbook at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/educational-materials/fast-facts/driver-distractions-ffdl-28/.