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California’s new distracted driving law for 2021


Once again, California lawmakers are taking on the problem of distracted drivers causing serious injuries and death in car accidents. Starting this summer, a motorist using their hand to operate their cellphone could face points on their driver’s license and, potentially, a suspension.

Details of the new distracted driving law

The new law applies to anyone who has been convicted of using a handheld device while driving within 36 months. If ticketed for the same offense a second time within that time frame, the court will add a point to the driver’s license. Accumulations of the following number of points within the times given result in a license suspension:

  • Four points within 12 months
  • Six points within 24 months
  • Eight points within 36 months

The new rule, which goes into effect July 1, applies only to distracted driving due to a cellphone used “in a handheld matter”. California law allows drivers to use hands-free modes on their phones and other devices.

What effect could extra license points have?

Anything that restricts distracted driving is a good thing. Especially if it stops distracted drivers before they crash into someone can leave them with terrible injuries. Distracted driving impairs a driver’s ability to act safely. It affects reaction times, judgment and awareness similarly to drunk driving. Drivers can distract themselves in many ways, including by eating, applying makeup, changing clothes or adjusting their radio or music player. But talking, texting or using apps on cellphones while driving is probably the worst offender. It’s no coincidence that distracted driving car accidents have become far more common in the U.S. since cellphones became common and affordable.

Still, incremental changes like this seem unlikely to have a huge impact on the distracted driving auto accident statistics in California. Safe and responsible drivers will continue to suffer serious, sometimes fatal, injuries at the hands of distracted drivers. While a personal injury lawsuit cannot change the past, it can help victims and their families adjust to the future by relieving their financial burden.