California mandates hands-free phones for drivers

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California has become the fourth state to require cell-phone users to use a hands-free device while driving. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1613 on Aug. 31, and starting in July 2008, violating the ban will incur a $20 fine; repeat violators will be fined $50.

California Highway Patrol data indicates that cell-phone use is the top cause of distracted-driving accidents, Schwarzenegger said. “The simple fact is it’s dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving,” the governor said. The law exempts emergency calls and emergency workers, and allows truck drivers to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011.

Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have similar laws for all drivers, while 13 other states have such laws only for novice drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.