California Distracted Driving Laws

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has been leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. The organization has successfully banned cell phone use and texting for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue. The website distraction.gov is the official U.S. government website for distracted driving and features facts, stories, and ways to get involved.

Distracted driving laws in California

  1. Handheld ban for all drivers (Primary law)
  2. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (Primary law)
  3. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Secondary law)
  4. Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary law)

California defines novice drivers as all drivers who are under the age of eighteen (18).

Distracted driving is not just limited to cell phone use and texting, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. Distractions endanger drivers, passengers and bystanders. These distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjust a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road or have your focus on driving interrupted in any way. Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver it is considered by far the most alarming distraction.

“Texting is the most alarming distraction because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded. It’s extraordinarily dangerous.”

Most crashes happen with less than three seconds reaction time.

Novice drivers

Novice drivers are the most at risk for accidents as a result of distracted driving. Inexperience with operating a vehicle makes distracted driving even more dangerous for this age group, with 16% of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers under 20.

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