California law lets you fiddle with phone while driving – sometimes

Tony Bizjak, Sacramento Bee

A California Office of Traffic Safety study came up with this unsurprising but alarming finding last week: 1 out of every 10 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road ahead.

That’s illegal, right? Not necessarily.

It’s definitely illegal in California to talk into or text on a hand-held cellphone. But it’s not explicitly illegal to scroll through your phone’s music playlist by hand while driving or to take photos with your phone’s camera from behind the wheel. The law also is silent on whether you can hold your phone in your hand to read the phone’s map, or search on an app for the nearest pizzeria or gas station.

Legal challenge to driver’s license suspensions over unpaid fines and fees


Local courts are watching what happens with a growing legal battle. Civil rights groups have challenged a practice in California courts that allow a driver’s license to be suspended, if someone doesn’t pay the fees and fines assessed for a traffic violation.

Last year, 25,792 suspensions were handed out in cases like that in Kern County.

That number comes from Kern County Superior Court Executive Officer Terry McNally. He also tells Eyewitness News local courts process 145,000 citations a year, so those suspensions represent about 18 percent of those cases.

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Report: More California Drivers Spotted Using Cellphones

ABC News
Don Thompson, Associated Press

The number of California drivers using cellphones is rising, as are deaths and injuries blamed on distracted driving, state officials said Wednesday.

However, the number of tickets issued by the California Highway Patrol has substantially declined, as have distracted driving convictions statewide by all law enforcement agencies, according to information provided to The Associated Press.

At least 12.8 percent of drivers were seen using mobile devices during a survey earlier this year, the California Office of Traffic Safety reported.

That’s up from 9.2 percent last year and exceeds the previous high of 10.8 percent in 2013.

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California DMV Releases New Digital Driver Handbook

NBC San Diego
Beatriz Cabanas

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced the release of a digital version of the 2016 California Driver Handbook.

The free digital version is available for download in the Google Play Store for Android and through the iBooks Store for iOS phones which makes it easy for users wanting to study on the go.

According to the California DMV, the digital handbook will offer users a new learning experience with interactive material to prepare them for the driver license exam. This new material includes a summary of standard road signs, safe driving tips and a comprehensive overview of the rules of the road.

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Drivers License Bill Passes State Assembly Panel

Santa Monica Lookout

By Niki Cervantes

June 21, 2016 — State legislation to stop the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for people with minor traffic offenses who fail to appear in court or to pay initial fines that snowball into huge financial burdens passed a key committee Monday.

The California Assembly Transportation Committee voted 9-to-4 to pass SB 881, which comes in the wake of a special temporary amnesty program started in October of 2015 by California.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, allows those with minor driving offenses to to talk with a judge about their fines, restores driver’s licenses to those with a payment plan and adjusts escalating fees after taking low incomes into account.

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How people of color are being targeted for traffic violations—and huge fines—in California

By Daniel Rivero,

In many parts of the country, driving is less of a joyful experience and more of a necessary evil. The traffic is soul sucking, the highway exhaust fumes horrendous, and the radio plays the same songs too many damn times.

Yet a huge portion of our lives would come to a screeching halt if we didn’t have the freedom to drive around.

Earlier this year, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights in California, an advocacy group, released a report about the kind of people who lose their driving privileges in California. Through its research, the group found that in many minority communities across the state, “driver’s license suspension rates range as high as five times the state average.” Widespread police practices that pull over minorities at higher rates than white people exacerbate the problem, the report notes.

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Thumbs up: A ticket out of legal trouble

The Press Democrat


How does a $20 traffic ticket turn into a $160 fine? In California, citations come with a long list of fees and surcharges on top of the penalty for the underlying offense. Miss the deadline to pay and the actual cost of that $20 ticket can quickly climb to $500 or more, plus a license suspension. Between 2006 and 2013, more than 4 million people — one in six California adults — had their licenses suspended for failing to pay a traffic ticket on time.

Courts: California traffic amnesty program helped thousands

SAN FRANCISCO — State authorities reported Tuesday that tens of thousands of California drivers have had traffic fines and court fees reduced under an amnesty program pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown to help the poor.

More than 58,000 drivers benefited from cost reductions in the first three months of the 18-month program that started in October, according to the Judicial Council of California, the policymaking branch of the state court system.

The council estimates there are at least 3.3 million traffic tickets eligible for amnesty with tickets valued at $2.8 billion before any reductions. The council reports about 612,000 drivers currently have suspended licenses for failure to appear or failure to pay traffic tickets.

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CHP has new traffic laws on the book for 2016, 2017

by Mike Black,

EUREKA, Calif. –

The California Department of Motor Vehicles and California Highway Patrol are reminding the public of the new laws and changes in current laws that are going into effect in 2016 and 2017.

There will be a new message on the electronic boards along the freeway  “Silver Alert.” The alert, which starts in 2016, pertains to seniors or individuals with disabilities who go missing in a car.

According to the California Highway Patrol, they will now be able to broadcast the information to the public using the changeable signs. While this may be a small change, officers said it will make a big difference.

Additionally, there will also be a new “Yellow Alert” sign on those same message boards come January to notify drivers of hit-and-run crashes that result in death or serious injury.

Furthermore, there will be new laws regarding hoverboards, which have already garnered a lot of attention this holiday season.

Beginning January 2016, you will only be able to ride hoverboard on roadways with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, or on designated bikeways.

You must also be at least 16-years-old to ride a hoverboard and wear a helmet at all times. The hoverboard must be equipped with reflectors and lights if you are riding at night.

Child safety seats will also be affected by the new laws.

According to CHP, all children will be required to sit in a rear-facing car seat until they are two-years-old. This law will be enforced in January 2017 to accommodate manufacturers in making car seats suitable for bigger children.

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By staff

As the new year approaches, here are some of the new California laws that are set to take effect in 2016:

  • SB 491 will make it illegal to wear earbuds or headsets in both ears while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.



  • The state’s emergency alert system, typically used as Amber Alerts in child-abduction cases, will be used to broadcast a “Yellow Alert” to find hit-and-run drivers in incidents that result in death or major injuries. AB 8 written by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.


  • SB 61 grants a one-year extension to a pilot project in Los Angeles County aimed at curtailing drunken driving through use of ignition interlock devices that test the sobriety of drivers. Drivers must blow into the devices in order to start their vehicles. If their blood-alcohol concentration exceeds a certain level, the vehicles won’t start.


  • The hotly contested SB 277 will take effect on July 1, 2016 and will impose one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, will only allow children with serious health problems to opt out of school-mandated vaccinations. School-age children who remain unvaccinated will need to be home-schooled.



  • AB 775, otherwise known as the Reproductive FACT Act, will require pregnancy clinics to hand out or plainly post information about where women can obtain low-cost contraceptives, prenatal care and abortions. The bill, which was sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.


  • The law requiring slow-moving passenger vehicles to pull over safely to let traffic pass has been amended to apply to all vehicles. AB 208 will now also apply to bicycles.

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