CALIFORNIA—A new California Law went into effect on Sunday, January 1, restricting the usage of any mobile devices while driving. Prohibited used include all cellphone interactions – from holding the device, texting or calling, accessing and changing music playlists, to live web streaming and taking selfies. The law requires drivers to put their mobile phones on either voice activation mode or mount them upfront.

While laws restricting the use of mobile devices for texting and talking were already in effect, there was no law that prevented drivers from accessing apps and other web services on their mobile devices until now.

Details for Assembly Bill 1785 are below:

a) 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.

(b) This section shall not apply to manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle.

(c) A handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted pursuant to paragraph (12) of subdivision (b) of Section 26708 or 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.

(2) 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.

(d) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

(f) For the purposes of this section, “electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.

According to, the law is a result of a contested $165 ticket that Steven Spriggs, a 60 year old law school graduate from Fresno received in 2012. Steven got the ticket for allegedly checking ‘maps’ on his phone while driving. He contested the ticket, stating that the old law restricted only “talking or texting” on the phones while driving and not against other uses of the cellphone. He added that navigating a paper map in his case, would have been far more tedious and dangerous. The California Court of Appeal agreed to overturn Steven’s conviction.

The case resulted in the new California Law, Assembly Bill 1785, that restricts usage of any and every app as well as internet on all handheld devices while driving. The new bill was signed in September by California Governor Jerry Brown, subjecting the violators to a ticket of $20. The fines can increase up to $50 for repeat violators.

Written By Parnika Goel and Donald Roberts