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June 4, 2008 > New Wireless Telephone Laws go into effect July 1, 2008

New Wireless Telephone Laws go into effect July 1, 2008

By Maureen Garrett

As of July 1, 2008, all drivers will be prohibited from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle (Vehicle Code VC 23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device. Drivers under the age of 18 may NOT use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC 23124). The law only applies to drivers, not to passengers.

In an emergency the law allows a driver to use a wireless telephone to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire department or other emergency services agencies.

Should these laws not be followed, the base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. According to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule, with the addition of penalty assessments, the first offense is $76 and a second offense is $190.

Although a violation of these laws is reportable to the DMV, they will not assign a violation point but the conviction will appear on your driving record.

There will be no grace period after July 1, 2008. However, whether a citation is issued is always at the discretion of the officer based upon his or her determination of the most appropriate remedy for the situation.

Persons visiting from out-of-state whose home states do not have such laws will also be subject to a citation if seen driving in California while using a cell phone.

The only exception to these laws is that operators of an authorized emergency vehicle, during the course of employment, are exempt as are those motorists operating a vehicle on private property.

Drivers 18 and over will be allowed to use a hands-free device to talk on their wireless telephone while driving. Although the new law prohibits talking while holding the phone, it does not prohibit dialing while driving. However, drivers are strongly urged not to dial while driving.

It is legal to use Blue Tooth or other earpieces as long as only one ear is covered. And a speaker phone function on a wireless phone is also legal.

With regard to text messaging, the law does not specifically prohibit that, but an officer can pull a motorist over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer's opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely. Text paging while driving is unsafe at any speed and is strongly discouraged.

Information provided by the California Highway Patrol

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