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New California Distracted Driving Law Will Penalize Drivers Texting or Holding a Phone

New California Distracted Driving Law Will Penalize Drivers Texting or Holding a Phone

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 47 into law last week. Under certain circumstances, drivers caught texting or using a handheld cell phone will be penalized by adding a point to their driving record. According to a CBS13 news report, starting July 1, 2021, a point will be issued for any distracted driving conviction within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense. A previous bill version would have added a point after the first conviction.

Under California law, points are added to a driver’s record for many 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. Even if it’s hands-free, talking on a cell phone increases the odds of a collision 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 was enacted 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 daily 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, e-mail or social media post is worth a life or someone’s well-being. If a distracted driver has injured you, please get in touch with an experienced California car accident lawyer for more information about your legal rights and options.


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