What Are California’s Current Laws on Distracted Driving?

Mom looking at her phone while driving the car with son in the backseat

Distracted driving laws have popped up throughout the country since the advent of handheld communication devices like smartphones. Different states have reacted to the rise of such technology differently. Some states only forbid written communication while driving, while others ban all handheld device use altogether.

It is important to know the distracted driving laws in your state so you can protect your rights in the event of an accident involving a distracted driver. Learn the laws in California and what to do after a distracted driving crash.

California’s Distracted Driving Laws

California provides strict guidance when it comes to device usage while driving, also known as “distracted driving laws.” According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the following distracted driving laws apply in the Golden State:

  • With few exceptions, motorists may not hold a cell phone or similar electronic device in their hands while driving.
  • Motorists under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.

There are, however, ways that drivers over the age of 18 may use electronic devices while driving. The devices should be mounted in an approved position, such as on the dashboard or in the lower corner of the windshield, and operated via voice commands, like Siri.

Limited exceptions exist that allow drivers to use electronic devices while driving. For example, a driver of any age may use an electronic device to make an emergency call when necessary.

Why Are California’s Distracted Driving Laws So Restrictive?

California has stricter distracted driving laws than many other states in the country. According to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), the following states have some of the most lax laws when it comes to distracted driving:

  • Alaska: No handheld device use ban, no device use ban for school bus drivers, and no device use ban for novice drivers.
  • Missouri: No handheld device use ban, no device use ban for school bus drivers, no device use ban for novice drivers, and a text messaging ban only for drivers under the age of 21.
  • Montana: No distracted driving restrictions whatsoever.

California may be more restrictive than other states in regard to distracted driving for several reasons. First, California is the most populous state in the country and, as such, has more motorists on the road than any other state. Second, California’s Office of Traffic Safety implemented these laws in response to research that has shown that distracted behaviors like dialing, talking, or texting generally increases the risk of getting into a crash . Third, distracted driving is a prevalent practice, with a substantial majority of drivers aged 18-20 admitting to texting while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

What Are the Consequences of Distracted Driving?

Despite the dangers of distracted driving and the numerous laws prohibiting the activity, many people still choose to engage in it. This decision can have devastating consequences, both for the driver who chooses to violate the law and for anyone near them on the road.

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2019 alone. And, although not every distracted driving crash is fatal, the consequences of such an event can still be devastating and permanent -- particularly when such crashes happen while the vehicle is traveling at high speeds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reading or sending a text takes more time than you realize. For this period of time, the distracted driver is essentially driving blind. Driving blind may result in high-speed collisions that cause the following catastrophic injuries:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Severe burn injuries
  • Injuries requiring amputation
  • Broken bones, bruising, and lacerations
  • Quadriplegia or paraplegia

Our firm has direct experience with the potentially devastating consequences of distracted driving. In a recent case of ours, we represented clients who were seriously injured or killed by a FedEx truck driver who was distracted behind the wheel.

In this case, a FedEx Freight tractor-trailer crossed over the center median of I-5 and collided with a charter bus headed in the opposite direction. The crash and resulting fire killed nine and seriously injured 36 students. During the course of our firm’s investigation, we discovered that the FedEx trucker’s cell phone had been connected to the internet before the crash. Further investigation revealed this trucker used his cell phone to make calls, text and connect to the internet while driving on a near daily basis.

This tragic case is just one example of the types of crashes that happen every day in the United States when motorists choose to drive while distracted. And the numbers don’t lie; according to the CDC, approximately eight people in the U.S. are killed every day due to distracted driving.

How to Build a Strong Distracted Driving Claim

In the wake of a distracted driving crash, you may be left with more questions than answers. Who will pay for my medical bills and lost wages? How do I prove the other driver was distracted before the crash? What evidence do I need to gather? How will I take care of all this when I am recovering from serious injuries?

The answers to these questions can be answered by a personal injury firm with extensive experience in this area of the law. After seeking medical treatment for your injuries, it is in your best interest to contact a qualified firm as soon as possible. Every personal injury case has a time limit to file -- also known as the “statute of limitations” --after which point it may be difficult or impossible to recover compensation for a claim.

A qualified firm can take the matter out of your hands and build your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries. At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we have helped clients recover millions of dollars after a distracted driving crash. We know what it takes to build a strong claim, including gathering relevant evidence.

Our Los Angeles trial attorneys have held large corporations, like FedEx, accountable for distracted driving. We have the experience and resources needed to take on large corporations and their insurers, and we have what it takes to recover the compensation you need for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and more.

Distracted driving crashes are entirely preventable when people follow the law. When they violate these laws, they must be held accountable.

Call Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP at (866) 634-4525 to schedule a free consultation.