New Law Tightens Use of Smartphones while Driving

As you know, California already has laws against using a phone while driving without a hands-free device or texting while driving.

But because it basically was written before the proliferation of smartphones, the state law does not cover the many new uses for phones, like live chat, posting on social media or using a myriad of apps that require user interaction.

Obviously, using a smartphone in any capacity behind the wheel is as, if not more, dangerous as driving while texting.

Well, now there’s a law for that!

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, a new law will dictate where you can put your phone and how you can use it while driving.

Specifically, the new law prohibits a motorist from driving “while holding and operating” a hand-held wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communication device, as defined by the code.

Under the law, drivers can use their smartphones if they are mounted on a vehicle’s windshield like a GPS or on the dashboard or center console “in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.”

Also, the driver must be able to activate or deactivate a feature or function “with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the finger.”

In other words, you will not be allowed to hold the phone in your hand while driving…period.

If you are caught using your phone while driving, you could face a $20 fine and $50 for each subsequent offense.

You will be allowed to make a single tap or swipe on your phone as long as the phone is mounted or fixed to the vehicle.

So, if you are one of the many who use their phone’s GPS navigational system, music features or Bluetooth function, you will need to place your device in a mount.


Existing laws

California also has on the books two other laws addressing the use of mobile phones while driving.

  • Ban on handheld phones – The first law bans all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. The law does not affect passengers.
    Drivers under 18 are barred from using even the hands-free function.
    The fine for a first offense, including penalty assessments, is $76. A second offense will cost you $190.
  • Ban on texting while driving– A separate law prohibits texting while driving. Under this law, you may not write, send or read text-based communications while driving – this includes text messages, instant messages and e-mail.
    The base fine for violating this law is $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. However, additional penalty assessments can make the fine more than double the base amount.