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New Cell Phone Driving Laws in California

On July 1, 2008, new cellular phone laws go into effect in California.  See California Vehicle Code §23123, §23124, and §23125

of law for the general public effective July 1, 2008:

A driver in not permitted to drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless phone (e.g., cell phone) on publicly-owned property or public roads unless:

 (1) He or she is an adult (18 years or older) AND uses a hands-free device; or

 (2) He or she is using the phone for emergency purposes.

General Rule:

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone…”


An adult driver (18 years or older) can use a wireless telephone if it is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and, obviously, the adult driver uses the hands-free system while driving.

Further, any driver can use a wireless telephone (with or without a hands-free devise) for emergency purposes

Examples: an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency.

Moreover, a driver is permitted use a wireless telephone (without a hands-free devise) on private property.  Example, at a parking lot at a privately owned mall.

There are also specified exceptions for emergency service providers who are driving emergency vehicles and certain commercial truck drivers driving certain types of trucks.

School bus and transit drivers are regulated by Vehicle Code Section 23125.

Additionally, a minor (under 18 years old), while driving, is NOT permitted to use a mobile service device.  Examples: pagers, texting devices, laptops, etc. 

A driving minor (under eighteen years old) cannot use a cell phone even with a hands-free device.

Are passengers covered by this law?  No.  This law applies only to the persons driving a motor vehicle.

A law enforcement officer may pull you over if he/she observes or determines (before pulling you over) that you are using a cellular phone.

A violation of this new law is an infraction punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. 

The courts will impose additional administrative fees.  The violation is a reportable offense (i.e., it will be on your driving record); however, DMV will not assign a violation point.

May a person use a speaker-phone feature and hold the phone in their hand, but not next to their ear?  No.
The law requires you use a hands-free device with your wireless phone.  You are not permitted to use a “push-to-talk" feature.  

However, commercial drivers who have a Class “A” or “B” license operating a truck tractor as defined in Vehicle Code (VC) §655 or a motor truck as defined in VC §410 are allowed to use a “push-to-talk” feature.

Note: This exemption in the paragraph above does not apply to pickup trucks with commercial plates, not even for commercial purposes (Example: a contractor, landscaper, or other business).

May a person use a dedicated two-way radio while driving? Yes. You may use a dedicated two-way radios such as walkie-talkies and Citizen Band (CB) radios, which are not part of a wireless telephone. 


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© 2008
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