The Law Offices OfPhilip M. Tobin

Is it legal to use a cell phone while driving in California?

As a California driver, you may have heard a lot of discussion about distracted driving, especially with the state's recent public awareness campaigns. While most of the PSA materials discuss the dangers of distracted driving, they do not clarify the legal specifics related to cell phone use. However, there are clear laws about when and how you may use your cell phone while in a vehicle.

The California Office of Traffic Safety indicates that the most serious distraction for drivers is texting. According to a 2016 survey, 54% of California drivers stated they have personally experienced an accident or near miss with a driver talking or texting on a cell phone. OTS says that dialing or texting may increase your risk of an accident by up to three times. Using your phone may require you to take your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. If you are going 55 mph, you may drive the length of a football field in those few seconds.

In California, you may not hold your phone while you are driving. This means you may not text, manually make a call, control music or scroll through the internet. If you are over 18 years old, you may talk on the phone using a handsfree set or put your phone in a mounting device to use a navigation app. If you are under 18 years old, however, you may not use a cell phone at all, even with a hands-free device. If you use your phone while driving, you may receive a ticket.

This information about distracted driving laws is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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