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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Policy

The FMCSA’S published guidelines for safe cellphone use is the Mobile Phone Restrictions Fact Sheet. Any use of a cellphone judged unsafe could result in a fine for the driver of $2,750 and $11,000 for those carriers who require or allow a driver to use a cellphone while driving.

Cellphone Use Risks

The FMCSA guidance states a driver is six times more likely to get involved in lane deviations, near miss crashes, or collisions while engaged in cellphone use when they have to dial or otherwise take their eyes off the road. The agency estimates that it takes a driver 3.8 seconds to dial a full number. That means they will driver over 100 yards without looking at the road when driving 55 mph.

Cellphone Use Definition According to the FMCSA

The FMCSA defines unsafe cellphone use as:

  • Holding a cellphone with at least one hand to make a call,
  • pressing more than one button, or
  • reaching for a cellphone that requires them to move so that they are no longer in a seated position restrained by the seatbelt.

Cellphone use that does not violate the state laws in which they are driving is usually safe, at least from a traffic ticket standpoint. However, many drivers are unfamiliar with every state’s laws. Current law in California, CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 23123.5, Driving Offenses requires the phone to be dashboard-mounted or part of an onboard system capable of hands-free operation or operated with a single tap or swipe.

CSA Points for Cellphone Use

Cellphone use violations and convictions reported to the Safety Measurement System (SMS) will get assessed the maximum of ten Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) points. Any violations within the previous six months with add the maximum time weight multiplier of three, for a total of 30 CSA points. Violations from six to twelve months will get multiplied by two, and face value severity points will be added to the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record of the driver for up to 36 months.

The FMCSA treats cellphone use the same as speeding 15 mph over or any speeding in a construction zone, following too closely, unsafe lane change, and others. It is a serious violation. The driver can get disqualified for 60 days if they receive another serious offense in the same BASICs category within three years of the first. Unfortunately, all of these are in the Unsafe Driving category. A third conviction will lead to a 120-day disqualification.

If ticketed in CA, you should speak to a traffic ticket attorney before paying the fine. Paying the fine is the same as pleading guilty. The DMV will report cellphone use in a commercial motor vehicle to the FMCSA even though CA does not assess Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points for cellphone use. It is not a moving violation.

Speak with Traffic Attorneys Familiar with Riverside County Traffic Court

Call Bigger & Harman at (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755. Many drivers are caught unaware of the CA hands-free cellphone use law. Although it matches the FMCSA rules closely, even if you remain buckled in, you cannot use a hand-held device that is not mounted in CA.

Don’t pay the fine without giving us a call. Paying the fine is the same as pleading guilty. Many will say the DMV will not report it because it is not a moving violation in CA. Is it worth finding out the hard way with a $2,750 fine and possible disqualification? If you received a ticket for an unsafe lane change and a cellphone use ticket, the disqualification is likely inevitable with a conviction on both. We offer a free initial phone consultation for truckers and other CDL holders.

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