Law enforcement agencies throughout California are cracking down on what they consider "distracted driving." The most common "distraction" cited is for using a cell phone while driving. This includes both talking on the phone and texting/reading the phone while driving.
Talking on the Phone
It is a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23123 to use a cell phone while driving "unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving." The fine for a violation of this section is $20 + penalty assessments for a first offense. However, for second and subsequent offenses the fine increases to $50 + penalty assessments. The total amounts will vary by court, but the fines will range from $150 up to $350 after the penalty assessments are imposed.
Texting and Driving
It is also against the law to text or read a cell phone while holding the phone in your hand. Vehicle Code Section 23123.5(a) states: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving."
This section makes is illegal to hold a cell phone and write, send, or read a communication while driving a vehicle. It is not a violation of this section if the phone is mounted on the "vehicle's dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver's view of the road." Similar to talking on a cell phone, the fine for a violation of this section is $20 + penalty assessments for a first offense and $50 + penalty assessments for repeat offenders.
Repeat Offenders Get a Point
A conviction for a cell phone violation, including both talking on the phone or texting/reading, does not carry a point on your driving record if it is a first offense. However, if you receive a second violation within 36 months (3 years) of the first violation you will be assessed one point. This can result in an increase in your insurance rates.