(LOS ANGELES, June 2, 2008) - The Automobile Club of Southern California wants to remind residents, and also out of state visitors planning summer vacation trips to California in the coming months, that two new cell phone laws are going into effect here in July.
Summer vacationers may be flying into Southern California and renting vehicles for visiting family and friends, and sight-seeing. They also may be on the road here combining leisure and business trips.
Beginning July 1, it will be illegal for drivers to use a handheld cell phone while driving. For drivers under age 18, it will be illegal to use any cell phone or other electronic device while driving. The law still allows drivers of all ages to use a cell phone or other mobile device in case of emergency.
Other states have similar hands-free laws on their books, including New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Going hands-free does not eliminate the distraction in the vehicle, however. "It's the conversation that is the most important distraction for the driver, not the device itself," said Steve Bloch, the Auto Club's senior researcher. "Advance planning will help toward being prepared for adapting to these new laws," he added, "But remember, hands-free is not risk-free."
The Auto Club reminds drivers that some vehicles and cell phones offer a way to hold a conversation hands-free through the vehicle's on-board electronics and speakers. Other ways to go hands-free include dash-mounted cell-phone cradles, a wireless headset, or a wireless speaker.
Fines for traffic citations stemming from these laws range from $70 for a first offense to $190 for a repeat offense when court costs and penalties are factored in, added Bloch. Cell phone safety tips from the Auto Club include:
- Plan your route in advance to reduce the likelihood for calling for directions.
- Wait until you reach your destination to accept or make cell phone calls.
- Ask your passenger to take your cell phone call while you remain focused on the road.
- If you must take a cell phone call, pull into a parking lot and shut your engine off.
- Suspend all cell phone conversations during hazardous traffic and weather conditions.