Everything You Need to Know About California’s Texting and Driving Laws

Drivers will receive a minimum fine of $162 for texting while driving under California’s new traffic laws.
Written by Kaitlin May
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Jan 05, 2023
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. 
car insurance
comparison and broker app
, this article details everything you need to know about texting and driving laws in California. We can even tell you how to find a better
California car insurance cost
down below.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

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,
is a
trusted insurance broker app
that does all the sourcing, shopping, and paperwork for you. Within minutes of signing up, you’ll have your pick of customized plans from top insurance companies that will do your wallet a favor.
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.
“Amazing! I’ll admit, I’m young with two accidents. This spiked my insurance rates on every quote I found.
, though, helped me find affordable insurance. It truly helped me!” —Marcus F.
Let Jerry find your price in only 45 seconds
No spam · No long forms · No fees
Find insurance savings (100% Free)


Compare Car Insurance Quotes For Free
Jerry automatically shops for your insurance before every renewal. Members save $872/year.
rating primary
Rating on App Store
Start saving money!
12,000+ Reviews
Trusted by 3.5M car owners like you

You might also be interested

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings — it's 100% free