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New California law makes using a phone while driving a bigger no-no than it already is

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Texting while driving is already frowned upon in California, but a recently passed state bill makes it much tougher to use your phone for any reason while driving, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Officially dubbed Assembly Bill 1785 and introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quick, the new legislation aims to “prevent distracted driving” by forbidding phone use, regardless of the reason, while operating a vehicle. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, does include an exception for use cases that only require “the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger,” so long as the phone is mounted either on the windshield or dashboard.

Assembly Bill 1785 appears to be a response to an Office of Traffic Safety study conducted in April, which revealed that more drivers were seen talking, texting, and using their phones while driving during a single day than in previous years. More specifically, almost 13 percent of California drivers were seen using their phones while driving, compared to 9 percent in 2015 and the previous high of 11 percent in 2013.

There has also been a slight, yet steady, increase in the number of drivers either injured or killed due to distracted driving, from 10,162 in 2013, to 10,548 in 2014, to 11,090 in 2015. Adding to the statistics are the 13,496 citations for distracted driving issued in April by the California Highway Patrol.

As of September 2016, 46 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving, with 14 states and the District of Columbia banning talking while driving. As for California, it already bans texting while driving, making Assembly Bill 1785 an augmentation of legislation already in place.

Assembly Bill 1785 will go into effect on January 1, 2017. Under the law, drivers face anywhere from a $20 fine for a first-time offense to a $50 fine for every subsequent offense.

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