On July 1, 2021, fines for texting while driving in California increased to a minimum of $162 and 1 point on your driving record with a repeat offense.
With 59.6% of California drivers reporting that they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was texting while driving, it’s no wonder why the laws in the Golden State have become stricter in recent years.
Distracted driving is the culprit behind 25% of car accidents in the U.S., and each state is doing its part to remove texting from the driving equation altogether.
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What are the texting and driving laws in California?
In California, texting and driving isn’t just frowned on. It’s a primary offense. The state defines distracted driving as “anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or hands off the steering wheel—especially when texting or using your phone.”
California state legislators have moved to ban the use of handheld electronic devices while driving, as it’s considered “the deadliest cause of distracted driving.”
Even when it comes to legal stops and mounted cell phones, there are limits for California drivers. Mounted cell phones can be used only in the following ways:
Placed on the lower-right side of your windshield in a 7-inch square area
Placed on the lower-left corner of your windshield in a 5-inch square section
Secured on the center console
You’re allowed to make one swipe to activate or deactivate an application on a mounted phone, and nothing more. Don’t assume you can use your phone as you please at a stop sign or traffic light, either. Californians are required to pull over and come to a complete stop before using their cell phones.
What are the penalties for texting and driving in California?
Driving with a phone in hand used to earn California drivers a base fine of $20, but with 2,758 annual cell-phone-related fatalities every year, the minimum penalty was increased to $162.
Cases are judged on an individual basis, which means additional fees and fines could be assessed depending on the conditions of your violation.
Each offense, especially within three years of the first violation, carries a higher fine with more severe penalties. If you’re ticketed for texting while driving within that timeframe, you’ll receive a point on your driving record.
The only way to combat points on your record is to complete a state-approved driving course in California.
Are there exceptions to California’s texting and driving laws?
With technological advancements like built-in communication systems, there are some exceptions to the law in California. The following circumstances allow drivers to use their cell phones:
It’s permitted to use your cell phone hands-free—as long as you don’t have to touch the screen.
Calls to law enforcement or an emergency service provider are allowed
Emergency personnel can use their cell phones when they’re on duty
Unless you’re in an emergency or you work as an emergency responder, it’s best to avoid using your cell phone altogether while you’re driving. According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), a single text keeps your attention off the road for 5 seconds. “At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
Are there special rules about texting and driving for young drivers?
When it comes to drivers under 18, the rules are even stricter in California. Teen drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone at all, even if it’s hands-free. If a teen is pulled over for using a cell phone, they’ll face the same consequences as an adult driver.
Can texting and driving raise my insurance premium?
Any traffic violation resulting in fines and/or points will cause a steep increase in your insurance premium.
Even with a spotless driving record, the average rate in California is $1,708. After earning a texting ticket, average insurance rates surge to $2,484. That $776 increase is 45% higher than what you were paying before!
To avoid skyrocketing rates after a texting and driving ticket, let Siri take the wheel—err, messaging—over. Any hands-free or voice options are safe as long as you’re 18 and older. It’s a split decision that can help you maintain a good driving record (and psst: that means
How to save money on car insurance in California
If you’re stressing about climbing insurance rates in the wake of a texting and driving ticket, keep in mind that your payments won’t increase until your policy renews. That’s why it’s essential to have a car insurance connoisseur in your back pocket to shop for the best rates before that happens.
Speaking of hands-free,
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Once you’ve got your eye on the right policy, Jerry will swiftly help you switch over and cancel your old insurance plan. With an average savings of over $800 per year, those texting ticket fees will feel a whole lot more manageable.
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