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Auto Accidents and Cell Phone Use

Distracted DrivingWith the dramatic rise over the past 15 years in cell phone use has come a corresponding rise in the use of cell phones while driving. Time spent in the car, away from life’s other duties, may seem like a convenient time to make a call or send a text. However, using a cell phone while driving is both dangerous and illegal.

Distracted driving caused by cell phone use is the cause of many car accidents in California. The National Safety Council estimates that over one in four car accidents involves cell phone use. Approximately nine percent of drivers are using a cell phone at any moment during the day, and cell phone use makes a driver’s risk of an accident about four times as high. Using a cell phone while driving can cause visual, manual, and cognitive distractions to the driver, increasing the risk of an accident.

Handheld Devices

California has enacted several statutes addressing the problem of cell phone use while driving. In California, it is illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving. The use of hands-free cellular devices, however, is permissible. There a few exceptions to this rule:

  • Drivers may use cell phones to make calls for emergency purposes, such as to police, the fire department, or health care providers;
  • Emergency services professionals may use cell phones for work-related purposes while driving authorized emergency vehicles, such as an ambulance, fire truck, or police car; and
  • Cell phone use is permitted while driving on private property.

This law applies only to listening and talking on cell phones. It does not apply, for example, to using a navigation app on a cell phone.


California law strictly prohibits texting while driving. Drivers may not write, read, or send a text-based message using a wireless communications device. This includes text messaging, emailing, instant messaging, etc., but this statute does not cover inputting a phone number to make a call. However, it is permissible to use text-based communications while driving if the device is configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free texting.


Drivers under the age of 18 may not use cell phone while driving even if they are hands-free. The only exception to this rule is if the driver is in a situation requiring an emergency call to police, the fire department, or a health care provider.

The Cost of Distracted Driving

The fines for these offenses are fairly low—$20 for a first offense and $50 for a subsequent offense—but the real cost of violations can be much higher. Car accident injuries caused by distracted driving can be devastating. Distracted drivers, their passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians can be seriously injured or even killed, and property damage can be extensive.

If you are injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you can file a lawsuit to recover financial damages to compensate you for the harm you have suffered. Available damages may include compensation for medical bills, damage to your car, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Injuries caused by distracted drivers can have heavy costs, but a dedicated attorney can help you to recover some of those costs. If you have been hurt in a distracted driving crash, please reach out to the San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. at (408) 289-1417 to discuss the specifics of your case.

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