Distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of car accidents. Anything that takes your focus from driving is considered a distraction.
Talking on a cell phone and texting while driving are extremely dangerous distractions. In 2020, distracted drivers using cell phones resulted in 3,142 traffic deaths.
Because of the dangers of distracted driving, California passed several laws governing cell phone use while driving. Understanding the law helps you avoid the consequences of using a cell phone while driving in the state.
California Law Regarding Using Your Cell Phone While Driving
Is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving in California? The short answer is possibly, depending on the situation.
California Vehicle Code §23123 prohibits drivers from using a wireless cell phone while driving a motor vehicle unless the cell phone allows for hands-free talking and listening. An exception is made for someone using a cell phone for emergency purposes and emergency services professionals using cell phones while operating an authorized vehicle.
It is against the law for anyone under 18 years old to use a cell phone while driving. California Vehicle Code §23124 prohibits drivers under 18 years old from using any electronic wireless communication device while driving, even if it is hands-free.
Additionally, California Vehicle Code 23123.5 prohibits texting while driving. The code states a person cannot use a hand-held wireless telephone or electronic wireless communication device while driving unless it is equipped with hands-free and voice-operated operation. A driver can use their hand to operate a device if the device is mounted so that it does not hinder the driver’s view of the road, and the driver can activate or deactivate the function with a single swipe or tap with a finger.
Traffic Citations, Fines, and Driver’s License Suspensions for Using a Cell Phone While Driving in California
If a police officer stops you for using a cell phone while driving, you can receive a traffic ticket. The base fine for a first offense is $20. A second or subsequent offense has a $50. However, the court adds penalty assessments and fees that increase the fine.
The penalty for a first offense texting while driving charge is $162. The fine increases for a second offense to a minimum of $285.
Additionally, California law states the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) shall add one point to your driver’s license if you are convicted of a second cell phone offense within 36 months.
California suspends driving privileges when a driver accumulates:
- Four points within 12 months
- Six points within 24 months
- Eight points within 36 months
You could also receive additional points if you were involved in an accident or other traffic offense while using a cell phone. Common traffic offenses associated with cell phone use while driving include running red lights, speeding, accidents, unsafe lane changes, and reckless driving. Each offense has a different point value.
Higher Insurance Premiums After a Ticket for Using a Cell Phone While Driving
Insurance companies might raise insurance premiums for drivers convicted of cell phone violations. A company might equate cell phone use while driving with an increased risk of car accidents. Therefore, the company might view the driver as high-risk, which could result in a higher insurance rate.
Cell Phone Use by Commercial Truck Drivers
Commercial truck drivers have strict rules about cell phone use while driving. FMCSA research shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event are six times higher for truck drivers dialing a phone while driving. CMV drivers can only use a mobile phone while driving if the phone is a hands-free phone.
Using a hand-held phone while driving a commercial motor vehicle can result in fines of up to $2,750 for the driver and $11,000 for employers. The driver could also be disqualified from operating commercial vehicles for multiple violations.
Causing Car Accidents While Using a Cell Phone
Cell phone use can lead to deadly car accidents. Victims can sustain numerous injuries including:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Chest injuries
- Neck injuries and whiplash
- Soft tissue injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Back injuries
- Amputations and loss of limbs
If a driver causes a car crash because they are using a cell phone or texting while driving, they can be held liable for the damages they cause. The damages can include economic and non-economic damages. The types of damages in a car accident case include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Medical bills
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Lost wages and benefits
- Diminished quality of life
- Physical pain and suffering
- Rehabilitative therapies
- Disabling conditions and permanent impairments
- A decrease in earning capacity
The at-fault driver’s liability insurance should cover the damages up to the policy limits. However, an accident victim can sue the driver for additional damages. The driver could be liable for hundreds or millions of dollars in damages, depending on the severity of the injuries and other circumstances.
Avoiding the Consequences of Using a Cell Phone While Driving in California
The best way to avoid negative consequences is not to use your cell phone or other electronic device while driving. It only takes a second or two for an accident to happen when you are distracted.
If you are injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you can contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer for a free consultation. A personal injury lawyer can help you file claims seeking compensation for your damages.
You have the burden of proving that the other driver caused the car crash. While using a cell phone while driving could indicate that the driver was distracted, you need additional evidence proving the driver’s actions directly led to the car crash. An attorney handles the investigation to gather evidence proving fault.
However, your time to file a car accident claim is limited by the California statute of limitations. Therefore, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.