FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a month when law enforcement agencies look to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving – and crack down on anyone in violation of the state’s hands-free cell phone law.

According to California law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or electronic communications device while operating a vehicle (unless making an emergency call, such as to law enforcement or the fire department), and doing so could result in a fine. Doing it a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record.

However, state law does give exemptions.

What about law enforcement?

Police officers and other first responders are allowed to use a cell phone behind the wheel, in certain circumstances. According to the state Vehicle Code:

“This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.”

There is also an exemption for a person driving a schoolbus that is “using a wireless telephone for work-related purposes, or for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency service agency or entity.”

Why is distracted driving a safety concern?

According to the 2022 California Statewide Public Opinion Survey, nearly 72% of drivers surveyed said that distracted driving because of texting was their biggest safety concern.

According to the Madera Police Department, CHP issued 56,000 citations for distracted driving in 2021. Officers suggest that if you have an important phone call, text, email, or in a situation with other distractions, pull over to a safe parking spot.