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3 California Traffic Laws Governing Cell Phone Use Everyone Should Know

Cell phone and driving laws have been featured in news media and blogs since early 2008, when they were first passed. If you are one of the 22,657,288 licensed drivers in the golden state, then you most likely know all about California Vehicle Code [VC] §23123 and its sister laws. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, you definitely should because these are the rules of the road, and you don’t want to be caught on the wrong end of the law – or worse, an accident.

Perhaps a Highway Patrol officer has pulled you over for texting on the freeway, or your parents have just sat you down and given you the ‘no-cell-phone-while-driving’ talk as a reward for passing your driving exam at the DMV. Whatever the case, all the hype about these laws beg a few questions: Why did they come into effect? What exactly do they entail? And perhaps most importantly, how have they changed the way drivers perform in California?

No Talking While Driving

California Vehicle Code [VC] §23123 mandates that drivers stay off their cell phones while driving. Put into effect on January 1, 2008, this is the inaugural cell phone car law.

No, You Can’t Text Either

By the time 2009 rolled around, lawmakers had caught on to the California drivers’ loophole to the VC 23123: texting. This Wireless Communications Device Law prohibits drivers from composing, sending, or reading text messages while behind the wheel. Police officers and Highway Patrol officers began enforcing this law on Jan 1, 2009.

Hands Free Calls and Texts

On January 1st, 2012 a new bill went into effect, allowing California drivers to text through hands-free technology. Assemblyperson Jeff Miller authored this law (AB 1536).

This is good news for the 82% of the population who own smartphones (IPhone, Android, Blackberry) with Bluetooth technology. Drivers under 18 years of age, however, are still prohibited from wireless cell phone conversations while driving.

Effects On Driving Statistics

These laws have gained much media exposure. Their justifications and ramifications could be debated in paralegal training courses for hours…or decades. Here are some of the numbers:

• In 2003, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study estimating that 8-13% of car collisions were caused by in-car distractions, including food, CDs and radio, ‘rubber necking’ and cell phone use.

• Another study estimates that 2,000 teens are killed each year in texting-related accidents.

However, it is not clear that cell phone laws have had any effect on protecting drivers. The online paralegal programs’ chat rooms may be locked in terminal debate. Take a look at these statistics:

• From 1985-2008, cell phone use in the U.S. has increased by 1,262%. During this same span of time, auto collisions have dropped by .9% and fatal auto collisions have dropped by 6.2%.

• A 2009 study performed by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) observed data from auto collisions in states with a 41-76% reduction in cell phone use while driving. According to the study, drivers crashed just as often without cell phone use.

Grisham Belle resides in a studio apartment in Northern Dakota, where he practices the flute and adds material to his collection of crocodile photos. His online hobbies include completing paralegal training online and writing blog entries. 

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