New California law prohibits cell phone use while driving

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Melissa Horton
  • 1st Lt Melissa Horton
As of July 1, all drivers on California roads and highways will have to follow a new cell phone law similar to the hands-free regulation currently in place on all military installations.

For drivers age 18 years and above, a hands-free device, such as a corded earpiece, Bluetooth headset or voice-activated system in a car stereo, must be used while talking on a cell phone and driving. Push-to-talk devices are not allowed, but hands-free speaker phones are permitted. Listening devices, such as headphones and ear pieces, are prohibited while driving on any Air Force base except when used as a hands-free device for a cell phone.

For drivers under the age of 18, no cell phone use is allowed while driving even if using a hands-free device. 

These no-tolerance rules are similar to the ones already enforced for Edwards drivers, who must stop their cars before using a communication device.

Because this law will affect all California roadways, drivers on Edwards will have to observe the stricter rules on base. The new law does not apply to passengers or to emergency phone calls. Although dialing is allowed, the California Department of Motor Vehicles discourages it while driving.

The penalties for violations are fines of $20 for the first offense and $50 for any subsequent offense. Although the DMV will not deduct points for violations, this is a reportable traffic offense, which means it will appear on a driver's record.

Similar laws are already in place in the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington and the Virgin Islands.

In 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 10 percent of all daytime drivers were on the phone at any given moment. Of that, an estimated one million drivers used a hand-held phone while driving during the day.

The Public Policy Institute of California predicts that this law will reduce the number of traffic fatalities by about 300 a year, based on fatality data from several states between 1997 and 2005.

For more information, contact the legal office, 95th Security Forces or visit the California DMV Web site at