The law behind texting and driving

02/28/2013 11:43 AM

03/02/2013 7:31 AM

We've written a couple of times now about law enforcement crackdowns on distracted driving: Local agencies are in the midst of the second of two efforts funded by a federal grant.

At the same time, it's hard to drive anywhere these days without seeing many folks on their phones without hands-free devices. And I bet most of us have been stuck at a traffic light behind a driver who hasn't realized it's turned green because he or she is looking down at a phone.

I got to wondering exactly what the law is regarding phone use in California. Here it is, according to, a website operated by the federal Department of Transporation:

"California has primary laws that prohibit ALL drivers from texting, or using a handheld cell phone while driving unless they employ a hands-free device. Having a “primary law” means that an officer can ticket the driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place.

Although no state bans all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers, California prohibits ALL cell phone use for the following drivers:

Minors/drivers under 18 years of age (under a secondary law an officer can only give you a ticket if you have been pulled over for another driving violation)

School bus drivers (primary law) "

We had local statistics in our recent story on this. Statewide, the California Office of Traffic Safety cited 3,008 drivers for texting or talking with a hand-held cell phone during a crackdown in November and December of last year. In 2011, the state issued 460,487 citations for handheld cell phone use.

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