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In California, as in many states across the country, distracted driving is a major concern that poses significant risks to road safety. While it's imperative for all drivers to prioritize safety, the stakes are even higher for commercial drivers.
As a commercial driver in California, it's crucial to understand the importance of complying with state cell phone laws. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in significant consequences that could impact your livelihood.

The Importance of Complying with California Cell Phone Laws

California has strict laws in place to combat distracted driving, particularly concerning cell phone use while driving. The state prohibits holding and using a cell phone while operating a vehicle, except in specific circumstances, such as when using a hands-free device or an emergency situation. This law aims to reduce accidents caused by distractions and enhance overall road safety.

Impact on Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

For commercial drivers, complying with California's cell phone laws is not only a matter of safety but also a legal requirement. Federal regulations under 49 CFR 392, Subpart H, explicitly prohibit the use of hand-held mobile phones and texting while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), with very limited exceptions, such as communicating with law enforcement or emergency services.

Penalties for Violations:

The penalties for texting or using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV are significant:

  • Driver Fines: Commercial drivers caught texting or using a hand-held mobile phone can face fines that may reach up to $2,750, as adjusted for inflation, for each violation.

  • Employer Liability: Employers who allow or require their drivers to text or use hand-held mobile phones while driving CMVs may face penalties of up to $11,000, as adjusted for inflation, for each violation by their employees.

  • Driver Disqualifications: Second and third offenses can lead to driver disqualifications lasting 60 and 120 days, respectively.

  • CDL Suspension: Serious traffic violations, including these cell phone violations, can result in the suspension of a driver's Commercial Driver's License (CDL) after two or more offenses.

Given the serious financial penalties, potential driver disqualifications, and CDL suspension risks associated with cell phone violations, it is imperative that commercial drivers strictly adhere to these regulations. Moreover, employers should prioritize compliance to avoid costly penalties and protect their employees' livelihoods.

Ramifications for Employers, Insurance Rates, and Future Employability

Employers may face increased insurance premiums as a result of their drivers receiving cell phone tickets. It could also lead to potential legal liabilities if an accident occurs due to a driver's distraction.

Additionally, a cell phone violation could increase a driver's personal insurance rates. It could also affect their future employability, as companies often scrutinize driving records when hiring commercial drivers.

Legal Defenses for Drivers

Drivers accused of cell phone violations can contest their tickets. Possible defenses might include proving the phone was not in use at the time of the alleged violation or challenging the accuracy of the officer's observation. Each case is unique, so it's important to consult with an experienced traffic attorney to explore all possible defenses7.

How Bigger & Harman, APC Can Help

At Bigger & Harman, APC, we specialize in traffic-related offenses and understand the intricate California cell phone laws. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your case, develop a defense strategy, and represent you in court.

We're committed to protecting your rights and helping you maintain your commercial driving privileges. If you or someone you know has received a cell phone ticket, contact Bigger & Harman, APC today for a consultation.

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