Under these new state laws, anyone making a cell phone call while driving must use a hands-free device or a speaker phone. Drivers under age 18 cannot make any calls, even with a hands-free device, except for calls to medical or civil authorities in an emergency.
This emergency exception to the laws applies to all ages.
Using the speaker-phone feature without a hands-free device is not prohibited by the bill, nor is dialing a number while driving. Police will look for drivers "holding the phone up to the ear," said Atherton Police Chief Bob Brennan.
The chief author of the new laws is state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
There is no official warning period for the new laws. Cmdr. Lacey Burt of the Menlo Park Police Department said that Menlo Park's stance is "July 1 means July 1," and officers will start ticketing drivers that day.
In Atherton, Chief Brennan said the laws will be enforced like other traffic violations: It is at the discretion of individual police officers to issue a verbal warning, a written warning, or a written citation.
He noted that written warnings are recorded so that a second violation always results in a citation. "I don't think we have any big plans to go out on a big cell phone roadblock," Chief Brennan said.
The fine is $20 for the first offense, and $50 for subsequent offenses, but these fines may double or triple with penalty assessments and court fees. Violators will not receive a point on their licenses for a conviction.
The laws do not include prohibitions against sending text messages while driving. "I think that texting has really come of age in the last couple of years, and it was left out of the initial bill," Chief Brennan said. "I imagine that the bill will get amended to include texting, because that's more dangerous."