California Bans All Handheld Cell Phone Use While Driving

smartphone ban
As of January 1, 2017, it is officially a crime to hold a cell phone for any reason while driving in California.

Handheld talking or texting has long been illegal, but the prior law failed to address holding a phone for other reasons, like browsing a playlist or using a navigation app. That loophole is now closed. With the safety of so many motorists at stake, it is worth examining why the new law was necessary, how it will work in practice, and what it means for victims of distracted driving accidents. Seeking guidance from a distracted driving accident lawyer can provide valuable insights into the legal aspects of these cases.

The Problem of Cell Phones Behind the Wheel

The California Highway Patrol reports that approximately 19,000 people in Orange County are injured in vehicle collisions each year. If you find yourself among these unfortunate statistics, it’s essential to seek the assistance of an experienced vehicle accident lawyer
to protect your rights and help you navigate the legal process. Based on population figures, this puts the odds of getting hurt in a collision at about 1 in 163. Keep in mind that this calculation is just for one year. The longer you reside here, the more likely it becomes that you will eventually get hurt in a crash. In such unfortunate circumstances, it’s important to be aware of your rights and legal options. Consulting a car crash lawyer can be invaluable in helping you navigate the complexities of the legal process and seek the compensation you may be entitled to.

We also know that cell phone use is involved in just over 25 percent of all traffic accidents, according to data released by the National Safety Council. The agency found that other types of distracted driving – like applying makeup or reaching for an object on the floorboard – may be more dangerous, but they occur less often. What this all means is that injury accidents are common in our community, and if you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it’s crucial to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer and cell phone use is often to blame.

Closing the Loophole

Lawmakers in Sacramento were among the first in the country to take aim at the problem of cell phone use while driving. As part of the California Wireless Telephone Automobile Safety Act of 2006, the legislature made it illegal to use a cell phone…

“…unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.”

Eight years later, in People v. Spriggs, the California Court of Appeal was presented with a case that asked whether the 2006 law applied to holding a phone for the purpose of using a navigation app while driving. The court ruled that it did not:

“[W]e conclude that the statute means what it says – it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it.”

The court’s ruling left law enforcement in a quandary. They could not cite drivers for holding phones to use apps, even though such behavior is just as dangerous as talking or texting. Worse still, drivers pulled over while holding a phone to talk or text could lie to police and say they were just using a navigation app.

Assembly Bill 1785 closed the navigation app loophole when it went into effect this year. The new law outlaws all handheld use. It allows drivers only a single tap or swipe of the finger on a smartphone that is mounted on the dashboard or in the lower corner of the windshield.

Injury Victims May Benefit from the New Law

What happens when a driver ignores the new law and causes an accident while holding a cell phone? The driver will be guilty of a criminal infraction, to be sure; but where does this leave a victim in need of compensation? The answer involves a legal concept known as “duty of care.”

In a personal injury case, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. Determining what is reasonable is often a subject of debate. For example, prior to 2017, a negligent driver may have argued that holding a phone in order to navigate is reasonable. The absence of a law prohibiting that conduct would have lent some support to the argument. However, if you’ve been injured due to a slip and fall accident, it’s essential to consult with a skilled slip and fall accident lawyer. Not anymore. Because violating the law is unreasonable per se in most cases, victims of drivers who violate California’s new cell phone law have one less obstacle standing in the way of justice.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Aaron Fhima, California attorneyAaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights. [ Attorney Bio ]