California law banning ‘texting’ for all drivers in effect Jan. 1

| 12/31/2008

Starting Jan. 1, adults in California will be prohibited from text messaging while driving. Teens under 18 already are prohibited from using any type of cell phone, pager, text messaging device or laptop while at the wheel.

The new law complements an existing law that took effect July 1, which requires drivers to use hands-free devices while chatting on the phone.

Intended to reduce distractions for drivers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the “texting” ban this year in an effort to remove a loophole that allowed adults to use hand-held devices to send, receive or read text messages while driving.

As is the case for violating the cell phone restriction, police will be allowed to pull over adults found texting. Violators would face at least $20 fines. Subsequent offenses would result in up to $50 fines.

Efforts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices, such as a Blackberry-type device, while driving have picked up steam across the country following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. Nearly three-quarters of drivers use cell phones.

California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that have bans on all drivers using hand-held phones. The New Jersey and Washington state laws also prohibit text messaging. Alaska and Minnesota recently approved their own bans on text messaging.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor