Starting July 1, 2008 it will be illegal for motorists to use cell phones while driving. California Vehicle Code Sections 23123 and 23124 prohibits operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone and in cases of drivers under the age of 18, from operating a wireless telephone, including pagers and text messaging devices.
Don't panic just yet, there are a few exceptions. A driver may use a wireless device if attempting to contact law enforcement, health care providers, fire department etc. Keep in mind these are for emergency related needs to emergency professionals. It does not apply to commercial truck or tractor drivers, bus drivers, tow truck drivers, farm vehicles etc. as long as a two-way radio is being used and such radio does not require the radio to be close to the drivers ear. And finally, it does not apply to motorists who are on private property.
Clearly we have all witnessed drivers who slow down traffic, run red lights or swerve within lanes while chatting away on a cell phone for what likely is a meaningless conversation. Now we have people who talk and text on cell phones as well. There is no doubt using cell phones while driving is dangerous and these recent changes while perhaps inconvenient, is life saving.
If you happen to be cited for driving while using a cell phone you could face a penalty of $20.00 (plus administrative fees) for a first time offense or $50.00 (plus administrative fees) for a second and subsequent offense.
Keep in mind these very important points about this new legislation.
1.If you are using a cell phone while driving, an officer can make a traffic stop and this may provide probable cause to arrest you, if you are under the influence. In other words, the officer does not need to see bad driving in order to stop a vehicle if the driver is using a cell phone. Once contact is made with the driver, if the officer smells alcohol he CAN conduct a DUI investigation and CAN charge you with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. 2.You may not use a speaker phone feature and hold the cell phone in your hand while driving and you cannot use a push-to-talk feature like those found on Nextel phones. 3.You can always pull over to the side of the road to make your phone call but do so in a well light and safe place.