Put that cellphone down, or else….

Today is the first day that Californians MUST use a hands free device if we want to talk while driving. This is good news for us bike commuters that frequently encounter drivers driving like drunks because they are chatting on their cellphone. But the question is, would this law also affect bike riders that are using a cellphone while riding in traffic? My assumption would be yes since bicycles are also bound by vehicular laws in California, but I will find out for sure.

In case you are wondering how much you need to fork out in case you get caught:

The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. With the addition of penalty assessments, the fines can be more than triple the base fine amount.

By the way, this law also affects people visiting California, so if you are coming down to visit Mickey Mouse, better bring your hand free device!


  1. Quinn

    I think the law has good intentions, but a few problems, how are the police going to prove someone was on their phone? also, $20 and $50 for every ticket after, I know gas is High, but $20 is still pocket change to Many people. $200 is a hit to a wallet.

  2. Ghost Rider

    Ask the people of New York just how effective this law was for them — reports say folks didn’t even slow down…they kept right on yakking.

    In Cali, can a police officer stop you just for this, or do you have to be doing something else first, like speeding?

  3. Moe

    You will be pulled over if you have a handset to your ear. And there are no warnings, you will get cited.

  4. Dominic Dougherty

    I think the intentions of the law are good, but it is flawed. The reason cell phone using drivers get into/cause crashes is not because they are on the phone, but rather they are distracted!
    Having a hands-free doesn’t take away the fact that you are distracted.

    If motorists are being ticketed for having a phone to their ear, then they also need one for texting, for eating a hamburger, taking a sip of water, putting on eye-liner, adjusting the radio, etc..

    And I do believe that cyclists should be held to the same law; but I see it unlikely in Long Beach, CA where a cyclist can ride the wrong way down a one-way street right past a patrol car and the officer won’t even bat an eye.

  5. Dominic Dougherty
  6. Ghost Rider

    Dominic, great point — the distraction is still there, regardless of the device being used…well, I suppose at least it’s a well-meaning law even if it probably won’t reduce the number of stupid collisions caused by these distractions.

  7. Lance

    My friend is a cop. He said he can find out pretty easy if someone was on their phone:

    He says he first asks them if they were on the phone. Then, whatever their answer, he checks their cell phone under the “recent calls”. Gives you a date time and stamp on the last call. Pretty hard to argue that.

    p.s. not sure about privacy laws and all that(checking someone’s phone).

  8. BSR

    Dominic is correct. It’s the amount of attention someone is giving the call (vs. driving) that is the problem — not the mechanics of how they are talking.

    I myself (while driving a car) have sometimes ended a call, and realized I haven’t really been aware of the last few blocks of driving, including turns and stops.

    Being hands-free is nice but it doesn’t solve the problem. Distracted motorists will still abound.

  9. Dominic Dougherty

    This may be a case of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”. If the motorist wants to get out of the ticket, they would have to supply phone records from the date/time of the alleged offense that show their call history… otherwise it’s their word against the officer, and we know which way that will go.

  10. kevmo

    Yes, it is applicable to cyclists:

    Ca. Vehicle Code § 21200:
    “(a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs … except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.”

    The new hands free law (§ 23124) is found in the same division (Division 11) as the above cited statute and the nature of restriction is applicable to cycling. Therefore cyclists are bound by it.

    Btw Lance – if your cop friend is really confiscating phones to check the veracity of driver’s answers to his questions, he is most assuredly violating the driver’s 4th Amendment rights. He might to rethink the procedure before someone slaps a lawsuit on him.

  11. Moe

    Well, for what is worth, I talked to a few co-workers that didn’t bother to buy a hands free device. They basically told me that they will ignore any calls while driving…

  12. mb

    It’s already a very kind law. Here in Singapore, if you are caught texting or talking on your mobile without using your handsfree kit, you’ll be fined and your mobile phone will be confiscated immediately.


  13. 2whls3spds

    All the laws on the books won’t help the root cause of poor or distracted driving.

    IMHO we need to really step up the driver training and education in this country. The last time I checked in my state you have to take a whopping 36 hours of Driver’s Ed to get a basic liscense, if you manage to avoid being stopped for anything major you can get by with no more training or testing until the day you die. If you manage to garner enough points they will send you to a 3 day “defensive” driving school. FWIW my company does that on a bi annual basis anyway for every one that drives a company vehicle.

    Driving should be like any other job where the public is involved (airline pilots, train engineers, etc) and require periodic recurrent training and testing.


  14. 2whls3spds

    I wish! In the US that would be infringing our our “Right” (sic) to drive a car and be stupid about it.


  15. Iron Man

    They should ban Mariachi festivals too. The guy that hit me was looking at one and not the road. 🙂 Distractions are a part of life, but focusing on that distraction to the point of negligence while driving or cycling is the issue. Cell phone use is just easy for an officer to spot, so it’s easier to enforce. What’s not easy to enforce is the negligence that goes on in vehicles every day on every street (changing stations, changing CDs, eating, chugging coffee, reading the paper, etc.). We need better ongoing drivers education in order to renew our licenses. The 20 obvious questions and cursory eye test every six years we do here in Missouri is a joke.

  16. Dominic Dougherty

    There’s a little issue of contradictory laws applicable to cyclists, such as the new cell phone laws and CVC 21205, Bicyclists may not carry items which keep them from using at least one hand upon the handlebars.

    “Well your honor… I was just carrying my cell phone. I had one hand on the handlebars.”

    If the judge busts you for your phone, then he is disregarding another cvc.

  17. kevmo

    Not sure that’s a contradiction Dominic. The same argument could be made about open containers of alcohol. The restriction that one hand must be on the handlebars does not give the rider a right to carry anything and everything in the other. Genrally, restrictions don’t give rise to rights.

  18. Dominic Dougherty

    Ah. True ’nuff.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *