As you no doubt already know, today (July 1st) is the first day of a new law in California: the law banning the use of handheld wireless phones while driving. Drivers caught breaking this new law can be fined $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent times.
Note that It is okay to use cell phones with a hands-free device, such as a Blue Tooth, while talking, although both ears cannot be covered at any time. Using a handheld telephone’s speaker function is also allowed, but dialing while driving is not allowed.
And if you are under 18 then you may not use any phone (or any other electronic device, period) while driving. Below, courtesy of California's DMV, are answers to the most commonly asked questions about this new law.
But does this law actually make any sense? I think not, because a phone is a phone, and the danger to driving lies not in the type of communication device (handheld or ear-piece) that you are using but rather in the distraction of having a phone conversation while driving.
Instead of a handheld phone, a driver's hands could as easily be holding a map or an apple or a cup of coffee or adjusting the radio volume etc., rather than holding the steering wheel. The distracting thing about phone use while driving isn't so much about holding the thing in your hand, but rather how being caught up in a deep phone conversation can be so consuming that it momentarily takes your mind elsewhere and away from the road in front of you.
So I say either let everyone talk on the phone (handheld or other) while driving, or else ban car phone use altogether. And don't discriminate against under 18 year olds: treat everyone you allow to drive equally. Do you agree or disagree? Add your opinion in the "comments" box down below the DMV's answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding this new law.
OFFICIAL STATE ANSWERS TO MOST COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON NEW LAW:
Q: What is the difference between the two laws?
A: The first prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle (Vehicle Code (VC) §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a "hands-free device." Drivers under the age of 18 may NOT use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23124).
Q: What if I need to use my telephone during an emergency, and I do not have a "hands-free" device?
A: The law allows a driver to use a wireless telephone to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire department, or other emergency services agency.
Q: What are the fines(s) if I’m convicted?
A: The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. With the addition of penalty assessments, the fines can be more than triple the base fine amount.
Q: Will I receive a point on my driver license if I’m convicted for a violation of the wireless telephone law?
A: No. The violation is a reportable offense; however, DMV will not assign a violation point.
Q: Will the conviction appear on my driving record?
A: Yes, but the violation point will not be added.
Q: Will there be a grace period when motorists will only get a warning?
A: No. The law becomes effective July 1, 2008. Whether a citation is issued is always at the discretion of the officer based upon his or her determination of the most appropriate remedy for the situation.
Q: Are passengers affected by this law?
A: No. This law only applies to the person driving a motor vehicle.
Q: Do these laws apply to out-of-state drivers whose home states do not have such laws?
Q: Can I be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for using my handheld wireless telephone?
A: Yes. A law enforcement officer can pull you over just for this infraction.
Q: What if my phone has a push-to-talk feature, can I use that?
A: No. The law does provide an exception for those operating a commercial motor truck or truck tractor (excluding pickups), implements of husbandry, farm vehicle or tow truck, to use a two-way radio operated by a “push-to-talk” feature. However, a push-to-talk feature attached to a hands-free ear piece or other hands-free device is acceptable.
Q: What other exceptions are there?
A: Operators of an authorized emergency vehicle during the course of employment are exempt, as are those motorists operating a vehicle on private property.