Gov. Brown recently signed AB 1785 which will significantly expand California's
restrictions on using your cell phone while driving. The new law will
go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Currently, the law prohibits a person from driving while using "an
electronic wireless communications device" to write, send, or read
a text-based communication unless the device is specifically used to allow
voice-operated and hands-free operation. The new bill will instead prohibit
a person from driving
while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless
electronic communication device. The focus is now on the act of holdng the phone in your hand, rather
than on how you are using the phone (such as texting).
State Assemblyman Bill Quirk told HandsFreeInfo.com that the old law was
“archaic” and ineffective because technology had “improved
so rapidly, and our cell phones are more capable of much more than just
calls and text messages. Smartphones have an abundance of available features
that demand a driver’s attention, leading to very dangerous driving
behavior. However, such activities are not clearly prohibited by law.”
Assemblyman Quirk was referring to a legal loophole created by a 2014 Fresno
case where a driver was ticketed for checking a map application while
stopped in traffic. The driver argued that he did not violate the law
because he was neither talking nor texting on his phone. The Fifth District
Court of Appeal agreed with him, stating that the law could was not written
to prohibit all activities, just talking and texting.
HandsFreeInfo.com reports a recent study of California drivers showed "almost
10% were using cell phones in 2015. California’s Office of Traffic
Safety and the California Highway Patrol released a study July 14 suggesting
a 39% increase in the percentage of drivers using the wireless devices
compared with 2014. Not all of the use was illegal, as the figure included
drivers using hands-free devices. Overall, 5.4% of observed drivers displayed
some sort of distracted driving due to device use, compared with 3.8%
The new law closes that loophole and will prohibit drivers from checking
maps, adjusting music playlists, taking photos, live streaming or doing
anything else on their phones unless a hands-free device is used.