California Bans Teen Driver Cell Phone Use

Gov. Schwarzenegger says teens need to eliminate distractions while behind the wheel.

Under legislation signed Sept. 13 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California has banned the use of cell phones and other digital devices by teenagers while driving.

California joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia in prohibiting teen multitasking while behind the wheel.

According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), teen drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as drivers age 21 and older. The NHTSA has urged all states to enact legislation to prohibit inexperienced drivers from using cell phones, PDAs and other devices while driving.

"The simple fact is that teenage drivers are more easily distracted. They are young, inexperienced and have a slower reaction time," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "We want to eliminate any extra distractions so they can focus on paying attention to the road and being good drivers."

A 2004 study from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety concluded drivers age 16 to 19 have a fatality rate that is four times the rate of drivers ages 25 to 69.

"Graduated licensing systems are designed to phase young beginning drivers into full driving privileges while they mature and develop their driving skills, ensuring that initial experience is accumulated under lower-risk conditions," the group states on its Web site.

In addition to graduated levels of licensing based on experience, the organization also advocates restricting nighttime driving and the number of passengers in the vehicle for teens.

According to the California Highway Patrol, cell phone use is a leading cause of distracted-driver accidents in California. A study conducted by Ford Motor Company revealed that teenage drivers are four times more distracted than adult drivers by cell phone use.

The new law takes effect on July 1, 2008, the same date as a law signed by Schwarzenegger last year requiring all drivers to use hands free devices when using cell phones and driving. Violations of either law bring a $25 fine for the first offense and $50 for each additional citation.

Both laws also provide exemptions for emergency calls.


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