Cell Phones and Texting: Distracted Driving Laws in California

California defines distracted driving as anything that takes your hands off the steering wheel and your mind off the road. This includes using the cell phone and texting, whether it is handheld or hands free.

If you have to talk on the cell phone while you are in California, a hands free device must be used. In addition, it is illegal to write a text, read a text, or send a text message while you are driving. This law applies to all drivers who are over the age of 18.

For drivers who are younger than 18, it is illegal to use a cell phone, either handheld or hands free. This includes text messaging and making phone calls. The only exception to both laws is to make an emergency call to the fire department, a medical provider, law enforcement, or another emergency service agency.


  • Drivers 18 and over may make hands free calls, but not text message
  • Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a handheld or hands free cell phone to make calls or to text message


  • The first offense is $20
  • Any offense after the first is $50

It is important to note that different fees and penalty assessments are added onto the fines depending on what local court you are in. The penalty fees and assessments vary from county to county, so the actual fine may be much more than $20 or $50 depending on where you are located when the fine is handed to you.


  • The only time you are allowed to use a cell phone to make a call while you are driving is for an emergency call.

If you must use your cell phone to make an emergency phone call while you are driving down the road, it is suggested that you pull over to the size of the road, don’t call while in hazardous conditions, and pay close attention to the road.

California has strict laws when it comes to cell phone usage and texting while driving. It is important to follow these rules because if you are caught, there will be fines and penalties imposed by the court. The only time it is acceptable to use a cell phone is in an emergency situation. Even then, it is recommended that you pull over to the side of the road.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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