In this digital age, many are addicted to the use of their gadgets, which has introduced a new breed of traffic infractions: illegal cell phone use while driving.
These offenses, although seemingly minor, can have significant implications for drivers, particularly in light of recent legislative changes in California—particularly when you get a second ticket for cell phone use within three years.
In CA, you could be sitting at a red light or stuck in traffic, pick up your phone when it pings, and get an illegal cell phone use ticket. You must be off the roadway or have the phone mounted.
What the CA Vehicle Code Says
According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23123.5, Driving Offenses, it's unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle while holding and using a handheld wireless telephone.
This includes texting, calling, or performing any function on your phone. As long as it is mounted and part of the internal communications system, and you can operate it with the swipe of one finger, you’re good, in most cases.
“(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”
A first offense typically results in a fine of around $150. However, the law is unforgiving for repeat offenders, as changes brought about by AB-47 demonstrate.
What AB-47 Adds to Illegal Cell Phone Use
Before AB-47, Distracted Driving, enacted on 1st July 2021, introduced more severe penalties for repeat offenders of illegal cell phone use while driving.
According to this amendment to the distracted driving law, the DMV must assess one Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) point for a second conviction or paid fine for illegal cell phone use within 36 months of a prior conviction in addition to the approximately $250 fine.
Once your insurance provider gets wind of the NOTS point assessment, usually at renewal, they will take your “good driver’s discount” of 20% and add the associated risk, typically 10-12% for illegal cell phone use. However, if convicted of “texting while driving,” it could be much more.
How Much of an Increase in Premiums Will a Conviction Cost?
The addition of a NOTS point to your driving record doesn't just risk license suspension—it also leads to increased auto insurance premiums. Insurers view drivers with NOTS points as high-risk, which could result in a 30% to 32% increase in premiums for a first assessment of a NOTS point. Over time, this can equate to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in additional costs.
For instance, the average CA driver will pay $2,290 for full coverage auto insurance in 2022. Losing their good driver’s discount will cost an additional $458 annually. With the added risk factor, it will increase between $229 and $275 more.
Your total increase could be as much as $733, making their new premium $3,023. Of course, that is the increase for the average California driver. With minimum coverage, it could be much less. If you have a teen on your policy, it could be much more!
You Should Consult a Traffic Attorney About Every Illegal Cell Phone Use Ticket
Given the financial implications and potential for license suspension, it's crucial to consult a traffic attorney when faced with an illegal cell phone use ticket. An experienced attorney can evaluate the specifics of your case, including the evidence against you and the officer's conduct during the traffic stop.
Contrary to popular belief, not all tickets are created equal. Some may be easier to get dismissed than others. For instance, the first ticket might be easier to dismiss than the second. However, you must let a traffic attorney examine each instance to be in the best position to avoid an increase in your auto insurance premium.
An attorney might argue that the officer's view was obstructed or that they misunderstood what they saw. Alternatively, they could question the validity of the evidence or even challenge the interpretation of the law.
The urge to use a cell phone while driving can be compelling in a world increasingly reliant on technology. But the consequences of illegal cell phone use while driving are severe and far-reaching.
By consulting and hiring a traffic attorney, you'll stand the best chance of successfully disputing a ticket and ensuring your driving record and insurance premiums remain unaffected.
Do you have a question about traffic offenses? Check out our FAQ page.
Consult with Bigger & Harman, APC.
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
CVC Section 23123.5, Driving Offenses
AB-47, Distracted Driving
The Bankrate.com article, Average cost of car insurance in CA for 2023.