The dangers and risks of distracted driving go beyond the law

The National Safety Council estimates that close to 3,000 people die each year on U.S. roads as a result of distracted driving. Talking or texting on the phone is recognized by the California Office of Traffic Safety as one of the most common causes of distracted driving. As such, the California Vehicle Code § 23123.5 makes it illegal for a person to do any of the following while driving:

  1. hold your phone in your hand
  2. text message
  3. talk on the phone (while holding the device)
  4. surf the internet
  5. search music and playlists
  6. use social media
  7. record videos (while holding the device)

There are few exceptions to the rule when using a cell phone while driving. Drivers are permitted, however, to talk on the phone using a hands-free device. Drivers may also use their phone to call 911 during an emergency.

Is it legal to read or answer a text message while driving?

No. Drivers are prohibited from using their cellphone, even when stopped at a stop sign, in bumper-to-bumper traffic or pulled over to the side of the road. You may be held liable if you cause an accident while reading or checking text messages. You are permitted to read texts and emails when you are safely parked. A simple rule of thumb to follow is to stay off devices while the engine is on.

Is it legal to check your social media while driving?

No. It is not legal to check your social media while driving. You may be held liable if you cause an accident while checking social media. You are permitted to check texts, emails and social media when you are safely parked. You can avoid infringing the rules, and subjecting yourself to liability, by staying off your cell phone while the engine is on.

What happens when someone causes a crash when using their cellphone while driving?

A person who causes a crash while using their cellphone may be held liable for the physical injuries and other damages resulting from the crash. Distracted drivers may be held liable for the current and future medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, lost wages, lost earning capacity, emotional distress, vehicle repairs or replacements, and other damages which occurred as a result of the accident.

Other Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is illegal, and involves more than just phones. Drivers may still be held liable if they cause an accident by eating, adjusting the radio, reading, applying makeup or looking at a map while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”