California’s Cell Phone While Driving Laws
Distracted driving has posed a danger to the public since the earliest days of the automobile. But, the invention of the cell phone turned distraction behind the wheel into a full-blown crisis. Today, using phones and other devices constitutes the most common cause of motorists losing attention and causing an accident.
The California legislature has passed several laws restricting phone-related distracted driving. But unfortunately, distraction-related accidents continue to happen frequently in California, with tragic results.
Here’s an overview of California’s laws against cell phone use while driving and how an experienced accident injury lawyer at LA Century Law can handle the process of pursuing compensation when a distracted driver harms you or a loved one.
Current California Restrictions on Cell Phone Use While Driving
California laws restricting cell phone use behind the wheel have evolved with changes in mobile technology. The state’s first law barred talking on a cell phone while driving unless the driver used the phone in hands-free mode.
The advent of smartphones, however, quickly made that restriction insufficient. For example, it did not prohibit drivers from holding a phone to send a text or use it as a GPS.
Accordingly, the legislature amended and expanded the Vehicle Code to bar nearly all driver use of cell phones and other wireless devices in anything but hands-free or one-touch mode. In recognition of the heightened dangers of teen texting and driving, the legislature also outlawed all device use by drivers under 18.
Today, California law permits drivers (other than emergency services professionals) to use cell phones and other devices behind the wheel only if:
- They’re 18 or older
- The vehicle is not a school bus or transit vehicle
- The device can be and is operated hands-free (a device can be activated and deactivated by voice or one-finger touch)
- The device is mounted on the windshield, center console, or dash or is part of the vehicle’s manufacturer-installed electronics system.
It is not a violation of these rules for drivers to make emergency phone calls, such as dialing 911.
Drivers who break California’s rules on cell phone use commit a traffic infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense. As discussed below, they may also face civil liability if their distraction causes a crash resulting in injuries or property damage.
Civil Liability for Driver Cell Phone Use
Drivers who allow cell phones and other devices to distract them risk causing potentially deadly accidents. Reading a text or scrolling to find a phone number takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the job of driving under control.
In just a few seconds of distraction, a vehicle can all too-easily veer from its travel lane, and its driver can ignore road signs, traffic signals, or approaching hazards. Thousands of crashes happen annually in California due to cell phone and other device-related distractions behind the wheel. Many inflict severe injuries or cause a tragic loss of life.
Victims of distracted driving accidents generally have the right under California law to demand compensation from the at-fault driver and others answerable for the driver’s actions. Through an insurance claim or lawsuit for damages, a skilled lawyer can often secure payment for a crash victim’s:
- Medical and other crash-related expenses;
- Lost income and job benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
Sometimes, a lawyer can also secure a court award of punitive damages that punish the distracted driver’s extreme recklessness. The amount of damages recoverable generally depends on the severity of the victim’s injuries, the strength of the evidence supporting the victim’s claim, the skill of the victim’s attorney, and the financial resources the distracted driver and others have available to pay for the victim’s losses.
Contact a Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer at LA Century Law Today
If you or someone you love suffered losses in a California motor vehicle crash caused by a driver distracted on a cell phone, you may have the right to claim significant compensation. The experienced auto accident injury lawyers at LA Century Law fight on behalf of victims like you to hold distracted drivers accountable. Contact us today at our offices in Tarzana, Century City, or San Bernardino for a free consultation, where you can learn about what we can do for you.
FAQs About California Cell Phone Driving Laws and Crashes
How do I know if a driver distracted by a cell phone caused a crash that harmed me or my loved one?
Unless the driver admitted to being distracted at the scene, it might not be immediately apparent that cell phone use was to blame. The most reliable way to find out is to contact a skilled lawyer who can take legal action on your behalf by seeking relevant evidence from the driver or a cell phone provider.
Can I seek compensation even if the at-fault driver in my crash wasn’t cited for cell phone use?
Yes, you often can. The decision police make about citing an at-fault driver at the scene for cell phone use is entirely separate from your rights as a crash victim and the evidence a lawyer may uncover to support your claim for damages.