Can I Get a Ticket for Texting or Talking on My Cell Phone in California?

Dec 5, 16 by Jorian Goes

Can I Get a Ticket for Texting or Talking on My Cell Phone in California?

Some statistics claim that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, though the numbers are hard to pinpoint.

The world changed when we started carrying tiny computers in our pockets. Cell phones have given us amazing access to information, entertainment, and social connection. But at what cost? If left unchecked, these small devices can be a major source of distraction in our lives. This is especially true on the road.

The Dangers & Consequences Are Very Real

Needless to say, texting while driving is a dangerous practice. Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. It’s no wonder there have been so many campaigns to stop distracted driving, such as AT&T’s “It Can Wait” series or this creative piece from New Zealand’s Transport Agency. Campaigns like these share a powerful message: human lives are more important than a notification on your cell phone.

Both Drivers & Pedestrians Play A Part

Side note: it’s not just drivers at fault. Pedestrians are guilty of falling prey to the allure of the glowing screen as well. In this Seattle Times article, one fascinating study by the University of Washington found that pedestrians who text are 4x less likely to look before crossing the street, cross in crosswalks, or obey traffic signals. They also found that texting pedestrians take an average of two seconds longer to cross the street. It’s a distraction that affects us all in different ways.

What Does The Law Say?

So what are the laws in California for driving while texting or talking on our cell phone? As it turns out, it is illegal for any driver to write, send, or read text messages while behind the wheel (according to the Wireless Communications Device Law, effective January 2009). This includes checking or posting on social media. Essentially, it is illegal to be on your phone at all while driving. The point of this law is to keep your eyes on the road.

Hands-Free Devices Only

When it comes to talking on the phone, the rule is simple: as long as you are over 18, you may use a hands-free device to talk. Otherwise, California drivers may not use a mobile device while driving at any time, unless to make an emergency call to 911, law enforcement, or similar services. If you are caught breaking either of these two laws, you will be charged the a base fine of:

  • $20 for a first offense and
  • $50 for the second offense and all subsequent convictions.

But these fines can easily escalate when combined with other court fees and charges.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you can talk hands free during a phone call, and never text while driving. The text can wait. No one wants to live with the guilt of causing harm to others because they were staring at a phone screen.