LOS ANGELES – Effective Jan. 1, texting while driving is banned in the State of California.
Under the new law, it is considered illegal to compose, send, and read a text, instant message, or e-mail, as well as browse the Web from any mobile device while operating a motorized vehicle. This includes any time the engine is running such as being stopped at a light or stop sign, or stuck in a traffic jam.
Similar to the cell phone law that went into effect July 1, 2008, the base fine for a first violation is $20; subsequent violations are $50. The exact penalty fees vary from county to county. In addition, if texting while driving is found to contribute to an accident, "the officer could charge you with a host of other violations including reckless driving, unsafe speed for conditions, etc. If the collision should involve bodily injury or great bodily injury, you could also be charged with violation of VC 21070, which includes an additional base fine of $70-$95 (plus penalties and assessments)," according to California Highway Patrol Officer Jaime Coffee, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
It's recommended that you can use your mobile device to write, send, or read text and instant messages, e-mail, or browse the Web while in a vehicle:
· When the engine is off.
· Parked in a parking space (with the engine on is allowed).
· Pulled over to the side of the road or an area not prohibited (i.e. not on a freeway).
In addition, use caution when doing the following, as they are not specifically prohibited in the law:
· Typing directions into a digital map or GPS program on or separate from a mobile device while driving.
· Dialing a phone number with a hands-free device. "However, as soon as you hit send, you must be hands-free. If you've got voice-activated dialing, it's even better," said Coffee.