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Beginning on July 1, drivers in California will need to use a hands-free device to talk on the phone while operating a vehicle, and drivers under the age of 18 will be prohibited from any non-emergency use of an electronic device while driving. The new California laws are part of a nationwide trend toward limiting the use of phones and other wireless devices that can distract drivers from safe vehicle operation.
According to a Press Release from the Office of the California Governor -- which pegs cell phones as the number one cause of distracted driving accidents in the state -- violations of the new laws will result in a minimum fine of $20 for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. The Governor's office cites California Highway Patrol (CHP) statistics showing that in 2007, 1,091 traffic accidents in California were caused by drivers on hand-held cell phones, with 447 injuries resulting from those incidents.
The Insurance Institute for HIghway Safety (IIHS) reports that six states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia now prohibit drivers from talking on hand-held devices (See an IIHS chart showing nationwide cellphone-driving laws).