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What are California's distracted driving laws?

If you are a California driver, then you know better than most that the state has some of the strictest distracted driving laws in all the country. This may be in large part because of the state's high accident rates as well as its vast population.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, distracted drivers claimed the lives of 3,450 individuals in 2016 and caused more than 420,000 injuries in 2013. To prevent distracted driving fatalities and injuries, California lawmakers banned the use of handheld electronic devices under most circumstances. Though lawmakers banned the use of handheld devices across the board, they did make exceptions for certain non-commercial drivers. However, all novice drivers and school bus operators must refrain from using any type of mobile device—hands-free or not—while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

The DMV delves further into CA's distracted driving laws, mentioning in particular the 2008 Handheld Wireless Telephone Law. Per this law, operators of motor vehicles cannot use any type of wireless handheld device while behind the wheel and while driving on public roads. Drivers who are over the age of 18, however, may use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth, a headset or speakerphone. If a driver opts to use a headset, the earpiece may not cover both ears. Drivers who are younger than 18 years of age cannot use any type of handheld or hands-free electronic device.

Per the Wireless Communications Device Law of 2009, California drivers may not text and drive or read text messages while operating a motor vehicle. This act also applies to out-of-state drivers. The only exception, however, applies to motorists who use a handheld device for emergency purposes.

The information in this post is for purely educational purposes. You should not construe it as legal advice.


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