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New California Cell Phone Restrictions to Take Effect Next Year

Starting next year, California drivers will be subject to greater restrictions regarding cell phone use behind the wheel. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a law that prohibits hand-held cell phone use no matter what type of activity the driver is engaging in.

Under California’s existing distracted driving law, drivers are prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is using voice-operated and hands-free operation.

In 2014, a California appeals court held that the state’s distracted driving law only applied to drivers who were talking on the telephone and not to a driver who was cited for using a map application on his phone. “Based on the statute’s language, its legislative history, and subsequent legislative enactments, we conclude that the statute means what it says — it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it. Consequently, we reverse his conviction,” the court ruled.

In response, lawmakers sought to update the law to reflect the fact that drivers use their smartphones to conduct a variety of potentially-distracting activities, such as taking a selfie or posting to Facebook. As Assemblyman Bill Quirk argued, “It is time that we update our archaic laws on the issue and do our part to make sure drivers are focused on the road. The accidents, injuries and deaths associated with this form of distracted driving are completely preventable.”

The new law, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1785, will prohibit a person from driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communication device. 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:

  • The device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road; and
  • 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.

As San Diego injury lawyers, we applaud Gov. Brown for signing the new law and are hopeful that it will help deter distracted driving crashes on our roadways.

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury in a San Diego motor vehicle accident, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation. With more than 30 years of experience, we have the knowledge and experience to obtain the compensation that injury victims deserve.