Hand-held cells illegal for drivers in California effective July 1

| 6/19/2008

In California, drivers who don’t keep their hands off their phones soon will have to pay up if caught. The state’s youngest drivers also will be prohibited from using any mobile communications devices while at the wheel.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law in September 2006 that bans hand-held cell phone use while driving. Since then, officials in the state have been preparing for the start date of July 1, 2008, to begin issuing tickets to violators.

Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device will still be permitted.

Enforcement also is slated to begin the first of July on a 2007 law that makes it illegal for teens under 18 to use any type of cell phone, pager, text messaging device or laptop while at the wheel.

The new cell phone law for all drivers allows police to pull over people found yakking into hand-held phones. Violators will face $20 fines. Repeat offenders will face $50 fines.

Among the exemptions listed in the bill are for emergency calls and using push-to-talk two-way, or “walkie-talkie” devices that are popular in the trucking industry. The two-way device exemption will be in place until July 1, 2011.

Violations of the young driver restrictions will be a secondary offense – meaning teens must be pulled over for another violation before they could be ticketed for using mobile devices.

Teens found in violation would face $20 fines. Repeat offenders would face $50 fines. Emergency calls are exempted.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor