Cell Phones & California DMV Driving Rules

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Hand-held devices are a distraction for motorists.

As early as October 2001, California lawmakers recognized the need to set guidelines for motorists who used cellular phones while driving. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) classifies such motorists as "distracted." On January 1, 2002, California enacted legislation to collect and report accidents and injuries where a cellular telephone or electronic device was present in the vehicle. In 2008, the use of hand-held devices was prohibited. Text messaging was later outlawed.

  1. Hand-held Wireless Use Prohibited

    • California Vehicle Code Section 23123 governs the use of wireless telephones while driving. The law went into effect on July 1, 2008. Drivers are required to utilize a hands-free device while driving and engaging in a conversation over a wireless telephone. Exemptions to this rule include calls to law enforcement and any call requesting emergency assistance. First-time violators must pay a $20 penalty. The penalty for subsequent violations is $50 per occurrence.

    Text Messaging Prohibited

    • California extended its mission of protecting the public from distracted drivers by enacting text-messaging guidelines. The rules set forth in Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 extend the Section 23123 hand-held wireless restrictions. Drivers are not permitted to engage in text-messaging activities while driving. This includes writing, reading or sending a text message. Those working in an emergency services capacity are exempt from this restriction if a job-related task requires such communication.

    Prohibited For Minors

    • California Vehicle Code Section 23124 mandates that persons under the age of 18 are not permitted to use a wireless telephone. This restriction includes the use of hands-free devices. An officer can only cite a person for failure to comply with this traffic rule when he is stopped for another traffic-related infraction. This restriction does not apply if a minor needs to place a call to law enforcement or for emergency assistance. A first offense penalty for this infraction is $20. The penalty for subsequent violations of this code is $50 per occurrence.

    School Bus and Transit Drivers

    • California Vehicle Code Section 23125 prohibits school bus and transit operators from using a wireless telephone while they are engaged in their driving duties. The restriction does not apply when the wireless telephone is being used while completing a work-related task. Other exemptions include the need to call law enforcement or emergency response services. School bus drivers and transit drivers hold commercial driver licenses. Conviction of a serious traffic violation can lead to a driver's license suspension or loss of commercial driving privileges. A violation of 23125 is not identified as a serious traffic violation.

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  • Photo Credit The girl during driving the automobile image by YURY MARYUNIN from Fotolia.com

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