Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 47 into law last week, which will penalize drivers caught texting or using a handheld cell phone by adding a point to their driving record under certain circumstances. According to a CBS13 news report, starting July 1, 2021, a point will be issued for any distracted driving conviction that occurs within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense. A previous version of the bill would have added a point after the first conviction.
Under California law, points are added to a driver’s record for a number of violations. Those who accumulate four or more points in 12 months, six or more points in 24 months or eight or more points in 36 months are considered “negligent drivers.” The Department of Motor Vehicles can refuse to renew a license to a negligent or incompetent driver. Auto insurance companies can also change a driver’s premium based on the number of points on his or her record.
Distracted Driving and the Law in California
California law does allow drivers to use a cell phone if it offers hands-free listening and talking. Drivers who are 18 and younger cannot use a device even if it is hands-free. Several studies have shown that texting while driving increases the odds of a crash by two to eight times. Talking on a cell phone, even if it’s hands-free, increases the odds of a crash by four times. The California Office of Traffic Safety’s 2016 survey showed that more than 56% of California drivers had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was texting or talking on a cell phone. The survey also showed that 40% of drivers admitted to making a mistake while talking on a cell phone.
California’s Wireless Communications Device Law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and prohibits drivers from writing, sending or reading text messages while driving. The handheld wireless telephone law became effective July 1, 2008, and bans drivers from using a handheld wireless phone while driving. In 2017, the law changed so drivers can’t hold cell phones for any reason, even for music or navigation.
Don’t Drive While Distracted
We see on a daily basis that distracted driving can cause serious injuries and fatalities. If you cause an accident while distracted, you may be held criminally and civilly liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. No text or e-mail or social media post is worth a life or someone’s well being. If a distracted driver has injured you, please contact an experienced California car accident lawyer for more information about your legal rights and options.