Restrictions on Cell Phone Use While Driving

Restrictions on Cell Phone Use While Driving

The law is as follows, while driving a car a person may not use a cell phone unless it is the hands free type and used in that manner while driving. [1] It is an infraction with a fine of $20 for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent violation. [2]

 Unlawful use of a cell phone when driving does not apply to:

  • Emergency use where the driver is calling the police, health care, fire department or other emergency responding agencies. [3]
  • When used by emergency service professionals while driving an authorize emergency vehicle during the course and scope of their duties as emergency responders. [4] 
  • Free Hands
  • The driver of a bus or other vehicle use to transport people. [5] 
  • A person driving a school bus or other vehicle used to transport students to school.
  • When a person is driving on private property. [6]
Violations under 18 years old

 A person under 18 in addition to not driving while using a cell phone or other mobile service device are prohibited from using one equipped with a hands free adapter. [7] Both offenses are punishable by a fine of $20 for a first time violation and $50 for each subsequent violation. [8]  If a person uses a cell phone while driving for a legitimate emergency purpose it is exempted from this Vehicle Code section. [9]

 Texting while drivingTexting while driving

Texting while driving which includes the use of any electronic wireless communication device is prohibited.  Texts are defined as any form of wireless instant message, or electronic mail. [10] The offense includes writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication; it also includes a person while driving who in preparation to make or receive a telephone call reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in a cell phone. [11] A violation is an infraction and punishable by a fine of $20 for a first time violation and $50 for each subsequent violation. [12] Legitimate emergencies are exempted from this section, [13] as well as hands free devices. [14] A person is not deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text if the person merely activates or deactivates a feature or function on an electronic wireless communications device while driving. [15]


[1] Sections 23123(a), (h) of the California Vehicle Code
[2] Section 23123(b) of the California Vehicle Code
[3] Section 23123(c) of the California Vehicle Code
[4] Section 23123(d) of the California Vehicle Code
[5] Section 23123(f) of the California Vehicle Code
[6] Section 23123(g) of the California Vehicle Code
[7] Section 23124(b) of the California Vehicle Code
[8] Section 23124(c) of the California Vehicle Code
[9] Section 23124(f) of the California Vehicle Code
[10] Section 23123.5(a) of the California Vehicle Code
[11] Section 23123.5(c) of the California Vehicle Code
[12] Section 23123.5(d) of the California Vehicle Code
[13] Section 23123.5(e) of the California Vehicle Code
[14] Section 23123.5(c) of the California Vehicle Code
[15] Section 23123.5(c) of the California Vehicle Code