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California Cracks Down on Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 80 percent of auto accidents and 65 percent of close calls involve some type of driver distraction.

Distracted driving comes in many forms: eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, talking to passengers, or looking at something outside the vehicle, to name a few. However, California lawmakers have focused their attention on one specific, preventable danger: cell phone use while driving.

California's Ban on Handheld Cell Phone Use

In California, it is illegal for drivers to use a handheld wireless device while driving. Texting while driving and talking while driving are prohibited. However, drivers may use a cell phone that is designed to allow hands-free talking and listening as long as this feature is properly set up and utilized.

Currently, fines for violating the restrictions on phone use are $20 and $50 for first and subsequent offenses, respectively. But, after court costs and other penalties, an offender will run up a $76 bill for a first infraction and $190 for a second.

Heightened Enforcement, Penalties

Since the imposition of the cell phone ban, California has staged several intensive enforcement initiatives targeting distracted driving. The latest statewide crackdown spanned the month of April and resulted in over 52,664 citations.

Now, a bill is being considered in the California Legislature that would increase penalties for distracted drivers. If the bill becomes law, those cited for handheld cell phone use would pay around $310 for a first-time violation after factoring in court costs.

Cell phone use while driving is still a danger on California highways: a survey of state drivers found cell phone use ranked as the number two safety concern on the road, behind only speeding/aggressive driving. But, California legislators are continuing efforts to discourage distracted driving and decrease serious car crashes in California.

To learn more about car accidents caused by distracted driving, contact a CA distracted driving attorney.

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