California law prohibits the driver of a motor vehicle from texting or using a wireless device, e.g. a cell phone, in any manner while driving. Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 only allows such use if "the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation."
Exceptions to No Texting and Driving Law
There are a couple of exceptions allowed by the Vehicle Code for drivers ages 18 and over. If the device is mounted on a vehicle's windshield, such as is allowed for GPS systems, or if it "is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle's dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver's view of the road." However, the device can still only be used if "the driver's hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver's finger." There is also an exception for emergency services professionals while operating an authorized emergency vehicle. Manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle are also exempt.
Penalties for Texting and Driving
A violation of this California's no texting and driving law (Vehicle Code Section 23123.5) is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense. A $20 base fine plus penalty assessments will usually result in a total fine amount over $150. A $50 base fine plus penalty assessments will result a total fine between $250 to $300. Moreover, a conviction for a 2nd offense within 3 years of the first offense will count as one point on your driving record.