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CA Begins Zero Tolerance for Drivers Holding Cell Phones

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 03, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This just in: Hold a cell phone, get a ticket.

California's new cell phone law makes it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving. It doesn't matter whether you are just listening to music or checking the GPS for directions, it's against the law.

The fine for holding a cell phone is $20 for the first offense; $50 for subsequent tickets. It is the same for using a hand-held cell phone, but increases to $76 for the first offense, $190 thereafter, with penalties and assessments.

New Era of Hands-Free Cell Use

For those drivers who have already adjusted to hands-free cell use, the new law is great. It discourages those other drivers who have been poking their cell phone buttons at every traffic stop while other people wait for them to look up. Police will be ticketing those distracted drivers in volume.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the new law to close a loophole in the 2008-09 cell phone restrictions, which banned talking and texting on a hand-held phone while driving. Under the earlier law, drivers were not specifically violating for listening to music, recording video or using other apps on their hand-helds.

The new law is good news for retailers, who offer mounting devices for hand-held phones. However, the law limits mounting to the dashboard, the center console, or the lower corner of a windshield so as not to impair the driver's view. If using a mounted phone, a driver may use it by a single swipe or tap at a time.

Distracted Driving Accidents

A recent California Office of Traffic Safety study says 1 out of 8 people drive while distracted. Officials say that distracted driving contributes to 80 percent of crashes in the state.

National statistics suggest that cell phone use in general contributes to 1.6 million accidents a year. The National Safety Council reports that nearly 330,000 injuries occur from accidents caused by texting while driving, and 1 out of every 4 car accidents is caused by texting and driving.

According to attorney Edgar Snyder, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile at any given time.

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