California law on driving while using your cell phone

Distracted driving is a growing concern in our country. While any behavior that takes your attention away from the road—adjusting the radio, wrangling your kids in the back seat, fixing your hair—constitutes distracted driving, the most common offense involves cell phone use while driving.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, more than half of all California drivers have been hit or nearly hit by another driver who was using their cell phone. Engaging in a task that takes your hands and eyes off the road increases your likelihood of getting into an accident three-fold. Across the U.S., distracted driving crashes claimed more than 3,000 lives and caused 424,000 injuries in 2013.

While it is legal to use cell phones while driving, California has placed strict regulations on exactly who can use them and how. Here are the hard and fast rules about using your cell phone while driving in California:

If you’re under 18:

You can’t use your cell phone—or any portable electronic device—at all while driving. Period.

If you’re 18 or over:

You can use your cell phone while driving, but you cannot hold it in your hand. Using your phone while it is affixed to a mounting device, through voice commands or via another hands-free manner, however, is completely legal.

California law permits only specific types of hands-free use. Bear in mind the following rules:

  • You can: tap or single swipe the screen (in order to activate or deactivate a particular function).
  • But you can’t: tap the screen multiple times, scroll or text.

If you’re caught breaking any of the above rules, you can face $161 fine. Understanding the law on proper cell phone use while driving can help you stay safe and avoid any penalties on your driving record.

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