Will California's new cellphone law be able to stop distracted driving?

On Jan. 1, California's new cellphone law went into effect. While California already had existing laws that placed limits on drivers when using their cellphones - including a ban on handheld texting-while-driving - this new law is significantly stricter.

In fact, under this new cellphone law, California motorists will not be able to use their phones for any reason if they are behind the wheel, unless they are using their phones in hands-free mode.

Ultimately, the goal of this new law is to keep a driver's attention on the road and off of his or her phone, regardless of whether he or she may be texting, taking photos, streaming videos, playing games, scrolling through music, checking social media or even making phone calls.

However, the law does also outline specific circumstances in which phones may still be used in hands-free mode - although you must meet certain criteria besides simply using your phone hands-free, including:

  • Your phone must be mounted to your dashboard, windshield or center console, and it must not obstruct your view of the road
  • You must be able to activate your cellphone or a specific function by using only a single swipe or a tap of the finger

Even though the penalties for violating this law are not significant - $20 fine for the first offense and $50 fine for each subsequent offense - highway safety advocates nevertheless hope this legislation will make California roads safer. After all, there is no disputing that cellphone use is one of the worst distractions on the roadways today.

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