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undefinedDriving while distracted is a dangerous habit that causes thousands of accidents and fatalities every year. It is a concern for commercial drivers operating large, heavy vehicles that can cause significant damage and injury.

Although most seasoned commercial drivers know and understand the risks and consequences of distracted driving, they should spread the knowledge and assist novice drivers on their team. This will help protect themselves and other road users.

Although there are other distracted driving incidents, such as eating, drinking, viewing videos, and others, we will concentrate on cell phone use since it is the most common ticket. However, commercial drivers should guide against all distractions.

The CA Distracted Driving Amendment AB-47

CA has strict laws against distracted driving, and commercial drivers are held to a higher standard.

In July 2021, the state passed an amendment, AB-47, Distracted Driving to the distracted driving law CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 12323.5, Driving Offenses, which makes it illegal for all drivers, including commercial drivers from other states, to use a cell phone or electronic device while operating a vehicle. The penalties for violating the law are not necessarily that severe in CA. It includes a fine of around $150 for a first and $250 and 1.5 negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) points for a second conviction within three years.

However, traffic laws are complex, and a first distracted driving charge could be easier to dismiss than a second, and three years is a long time. Commercial drivers should always consult a traffic attorney about disputing the ticket.

The DOT FMCSA Cell Phone Use Fact Sheet

The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also issued regulations to combat distracted driving among commercial drivers.

The FMCSA has released a cell phone use fact sheet that outlines the regulations that apply to commercial drivers who use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. According to the fact sheet, using a hand-held cell phone while driving is a “serious offense” that can result in fines and driver disqualification for violating a state’s cell phone use law.

However, a commercial driver can use a hands-free device or one that is mounted within reach of the driver, if it can be operated with a single finger swipe. Most electronic logging devices (ELDs) have applications that allow communications with fleet HQ and other drivers that are hands-free.

A second conviction of an illegal cell phone use within three years of the first will lead to a 60-day drivers' disqualification, and a third will result in a 120-day disqualification. The fines for violating the regulations at the FMCSA are $2,750 and could be up to $11,000 for fleet management or an owner-operator, but are rarely issued.

Distracted Driving & CSA Points

Distracted driving can also lead to Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) severity points, affecting a commercial driver's safety record and employment opportunities. CSA points are assigned to drivers who commit safety violations, including distracted driving, and are used by employers and the CA DMV to evaluate a driver's safety record.

After an assessment, the CSA severity points are placed on the driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record and multiplied by the Safety Measurement System (SMS) time weight. The ten CSA severity points for a conviction of an illegal cell phone ticket will be multiplied by three if the driver had another conviction within the past six months and two if it is the second within 12 months.

These time weights are particularly detrimental to fleets and owner-operators as the percentile is applied to their DOT number, and all drivers using that number could get pulled into weigh stations for roadside inspection. This is time-consuming and also causes their fleet insurance to rise. Many managers will terminate a driver with a recent moving violation, such as distracted driving, that causes their fleet insurance to increase.

A commercial driver's safety record is crucial in the industry and can determine their employability, earning potential, and insurance rates. Accumulating CSA points for distracted driving can have severe consequences for a driver's career, making it even more crucial to avoid distractions while operating a commercial vehicle that leads to a conviction.

Every CDL holder should consult a CA traffic attorney when issued a distracted driving ticket.

Consult a CA Traffic Attorney for Every Traffic Ticket

If you are a commercial driver and receive a traffic ticket for distracted driving or any other offense, it is essential to consult a CA traffic attorney.

A traffic attorney can help you understand the charges, potential consequences, and best action to protect your rights and interests.

A traffic attorney can also help you navigate the complex legal system and represent you in court, leaving you free to “keep on trucking.”

Contact Bigger & Harman, APC, to Help with a Distracted Driving Charge in Kern County, CA

If you are a commercial driver and receive a traffic ticket for distracted driving or any other offense, do not hesitate to contact us. We provide valuable legal advice and representation to keep you on the road, protecting your rights and driving career.

We are a CA defense team that only practices traffic law. Call us at (661) 349-9300, utilize our online contact form or email us

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.


The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.

The DOT FMCSA Cell Phone Use Fact Sheet.

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51, Driver Disqualifications.

CVC Section 12323.5, Driving Offenses & AB-47, Distracted driving.

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