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How Can You Legally Use your Smart Phone When Driving in California?

| Apr 18, 2016 | Firm News

One of the greatest hazards on our roadways today is distracted drivers. The number of drivers who are text messaging, talking, and using the internet on their phones while driving has increased tremendously over the past decade, prompting the creation of new anti-texting laws and public awareness campaigns.

Despite these laws and public campaigns, thousands of drivers continue to use their smart phones while driving. In 2012, 421,000 people were injured in car accidents and 3,328 people were killed in collisions involving distracted drivers. Smart phone use while driving not only takes a driver’s hands off his or her steering wheel, it also takes his or her eyes off the road and his or her mind off the task of operating the car, thereby increasing the risk of a car accident.

Part of what makes distracted driving so prevalent is the lack of knowledge among drivers about what is and is not legal to do behind the wheel. Do not be one of these drivers. Read on to find out which smart phone uses are illegal for the state of California drivers so you know which to avoid.

Hands-free Use of your Phone is Permitted

Talking on your phone through OnStar, a Bluetooth headset, or simply by using its voice-activated controls to make calls and send text messages is legal in California.

You May Not Use your Phone While Stopped at a Red Light or a Stop Sign

Although your car is not in motion at these points, you are still barred from using your phone unless you are using it hands-free.

Do Not Type Directions into your Phone’s GPS While Driving

Although there is no specific law against using your smart phone’s GPS while your vehicle is in motion, it is not advised to do this. Any time you need to use your hands to operate your phone, you put yourself, your passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians in danger. If you need to use your GPS, pull over and type in the directions while your car is parked. Reckless driving caused by this kind of smart phone use is grounds for a traffic citation.

Drivers Under the Age of 18 May Not Use Smart Phones While Driving at All

This includes hands-free use of smart phones. The only exception to this rule is in emergencies, where young drivers need to use their phones to call 911.

You May Use your Phone in an Emergency

Drivers of all ages may use their phones to call the police, emergency medical services, or a fire department if there is an emergency. This is the only situation in which the hands-free requirement for drivers is suspended. If it is safe for you to pull over, pull off the road and park to make this call.

Do Your Part to Prevent Car Accidents in California

The reality is that even with these laws, tens of thousands of drivers are still going to use their smart phones while driving. Sometimes, all you can do is take steps to lower your chance of being involved in a car accident with a distracted driver.

When you are a passenger in another person’s car, offer to take over phone duties for him or her. These might include using the navigation system or answering his or her messages on his or her behalf. Another thing you can do is remind your friends and family members about the dangers of phone use while driving and impress the value of waiting until they are at their destination or pulling off the road to use their phones in order to help reduce the occurrence of a car accident.

Obey all posted speed limits and other traffic signals. By staying at or below the speed limit, you stay in greater control of your car and can react more quickly to other drivers’ errors. If you are a parent of a teen driver, discuss safe driving with him or her and be sure to model correct driving behavior for all your children.

Contact a San Diego Car Accident Attorney

Despite taking all the proper precautions, car accidents do happen. If you are injured in one, contact a skilled San Diego car accident attorney at Martinez & Schill LLP on the web or at 951-200-4630 to schedule your initial legal consultation. During this consultation, you will have the opportunity to speak with a skilled San Diego personal injury attorney to discuss the personal injury claim process and find out if you have grounds for a claim. If so, we can advise you through each step of your claim. Do not wait to contact us. Contact us today to begin working on your California car accident claim.