California's distracted driving law explained

Nearly as long as there have been cars, there have been ways for drivers to get distracted from their task. But as recently as a few decades ago, phones were not an issue.

Then, the first car phones became available. Today, of course, nearly everyone carries a cellphone with them when they drive. These devices allow us to communicate with each other and use the internet wherever we are. None of which you should do while driving, because it impairs your ability to observe the world around you and react in time to prevent a collision.

Perhaps millions of Americans regularly drive while distracted by their phones anyway, injuring thousands of people every year in crashes. State governments, including here in California, have responded by criminalizing phone use.

The extent of these laws varies widely state-by-state. California’s law is among the most comprehensive. It is against the law for drivers here to use a handheld cellphone while driving, and texting is outright banned. These are primary violations, which means a police officer can pull over a driver on suspicion of doing one of these things alone.

However, the law permits hands-free phone calls, except for “novice drivers,” meaning motorists under age 18.

Other states are much more permissive of distracted driving. For example, Arizona only prohibits cellphone use while driving for school bus drivers.

Despite these efforts, distracted driving crashes happen virtually every day, and victims face a lengthy, painful, expensive recovery. Distracted drivers can be held financially accountable for their negligence, with the help of a personal injury attorney.

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