SACRAMENTO– The California Highway Patrol has issued a news release reminding California residents that the two new laws dealing with the use of wireless telephones while driving go into effect July 1.

The "hands-free" cell phone laws prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, and motorists 18 and older may use a hands-free device. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle. However, the law allows a driver to use a wireless telephone to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire department, or other emergency services agency.

Operators of an authorized emergency vehicle during the course of employment are exempt as are those motorists operating a vehicle on private property

The base fine for the first offense is $20; subsequent convictions are $50. According to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule, with the addition of penalty assessments, a first offense is $76 and a second offense is $190.

Law enforcement officers can pull drivers over solely for this infraction.

Other provisions of the laws include:

  • Dialing the phone while driving is not prohibited.
  • Drivers may use a BlueTooth or other earpiece, but may not have both ears covered.
  • Drivers may use the speaker phone function of their wireless telephone while driving.

The law does not specifically prohibit drivers 18 and older from text messaging while driving, but an officer can pull over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer's opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely.