UNITED STATES—Even the most relaxed motorists must admit that distracted driving is a significant safety concern in California. In fact, recent survey data suggests over 57 percent of Californians either got into an accident or were almost injured in a distracted driving crash. Interestingly, about 46 percent of Californians claim using a cellphone is the most dangerous distraction on today’s roadways.
Although California already has a strict ban against using mobile phones while driving, state leaders recently intensified their stance against cruising with cell phones. In July of 2021, CA lawmakers successfully passed AB 47, which heightens the penalties for people who text while driving.
Now, anyone caught using their cell phone while driving more than once in 36 months will lose one point on their driver’s record. These violation points are on top of any fees California drivers may receive from responding officers.
California drivers who accumulate four violation points within 12 months could face a license revocation or suspension. The California Vehicle Code also allows state authorities to revoke drivers’ licenses with 6 points in 24 weeks or 8 points in 36 weeks.
Most of California’s laws on texting while driving are listed in the California Vehicle Code Division 11, Chapter 12, § 23100 – 23249.50. In these sections, California lists the base fine for first-time texting while driving offenders at $20. These fees go up to $50 for all repeat offenses.
There is an exception for hands-free or voice-operated devices like Bluetooth headsets, so long as the driver is over 18. As the law states, any phones “specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking” are OK for adult drivers to use.
The intent of AB 47 is to remind Californians of the serious safety risks associated with distracted driving. State leaders hope laws like AB 47 will encourage drivers to keep their eyes on their surroundings rather than on their smartphones.
To help spread the message on AB 47 and related distracted driving laws, California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) unveiled its “Just Drive” campaign. According to OTS staff, texting while driving could increase the risk of a severe crash by at least three times. DMV employees hope their PSAs will resonate with younger drivers, who are more likely to use smartphones while commuting.
Unquestionably, texting while driving remains one of the most prevalent distractions for modern-day motorists across the nation. While California’s laws on texting and driving have been highly effective at reducing the number of distracted driver related accident fatalities, states like New Mexico and Kentucky top the charts.
Cara Stigger of Kentucky’s Kaufman and Stigger, PLLC comments, “Texting and driving is one of the most needlessly dangerous things a driver can do. There is no text message that is so important that it can’t wait until drivers have reached their destination. If it is that important, pull to the side of the road or make a hands-free phone call.”
Anyone who’s interested in learning more about California’s policies on using mobile devices while driving could visit CA OTS’s website. The organization Go Safely CA also publishes safety resources on issues such as distracted driving, speeding, and DUI.