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June 25, 2008 > New California Wireless Phone Laws Go Into Effect July 1

New California Wireless Phone Laws Go Into Effect July 1

Submitted By Mike Mirando, California Department of Motor Vehicles

As part of our fast and busy lives, we are often forced with the decision to multi-task or fall behind. But what happens when multi-tasking includes talking on a cell phone while driving, texting or emailing friends, family or colleagues just to stay one step ahead of our ever-changing schedules? While we may often feel like our cell phones are something we just simply can't live without, using cell phones or other wireless devices when driving a motor vehicle can become a real life-and-death situation. In fact, according to the California Highway Patrol, cell phone use is the leading cause of distracted driving collisions in California.

In an effort to make driving safer for everyone, California recently passed two new laws that both go into effect July 1, 2008: SB 33 and SB 1613.

SB 33 is aimed at teens and makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a cell phone or other wireless device while driving a motor vehicle. Because teenage drivers are young, inexperienced behind the wheel and more easily distracted, it is best to avoid any extra distractions while they drive. Teen drivers should note that simply using a wireless device, even with a hands-free add-on, is a primary violation for which a law enforcement officer can specifically pull them over. This is an incredibly important new law, since motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20-year-olds in the United States.

While adults will still be able to use their cell phones while driving starting July 1, SB 1613 requires them to use a hands-free device when using a cell phone in the car. Also a primary offense, if cited by a law enforcement officer for breaking this law, drivers will have to pay a fine: first offenses will result in a $20 fine with subsequent offenses of $50. With the addition of penalty assessments, these fines can be more than triple the base fine amount. Further, while no actual points will be assessed on DMV records, drivers should know that the infraction will still show on their driving record.

Exceptions to both rules will include emergency situations (calls to law enforcement, health providers, the fire department, etc.) and operating a vehicle while on private property. Neither law applies to passengers in cars.

To get all the "buzz" on the new cellular phone laws, check out the California Department of Motor Vehicles' Web site www.dmv.ca.gov/cellularphonelaws/index.htm.

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