Can You Text While Stopped at a Red Light?

can you text at a red light

In 2009, California created several laws that made it illegal to read, write or send texts while driving. These laws make it very clear that a driver must use a hand free device when operating a vehicle. But what if the vehicle is not moving? Can you text while stopped at a red light? Let’s find out!

California Distracted Driving Laws

According to CVC 23123.5, “a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”

Yet, there is an exception. A cellphone may be operated in a manner requiring the use of a driver’s hand if these two conditions are met:

  1. The cellphone is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a way that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.
  2. If activation or deactivation of a feature or function only requires a single swipe or tap.

So Can You Text While Stopped at a Red Light?

For many drivers it’s tough to resist the urge to use a phone at some point while driving. Even more tempting is to use that phone while stopped at a red light or during a traffic jam because it seems safe and harmless since you are not moving. But California court rulings (like People v. Nelson) tell us that being stopped at a red light is not a green light for texting. Remember, you have to be off the road and parked if not using a hands-free device.

Texting While Driving Ticket

If you get a texting while driving ticket, the first offense fine is $20 while any subsequent tickets will be $50. This may seem lenient compared to other traffic tickets such as speeding or red light. Still this will change.

Starting July 2021, a new cell phone law will go into effect that includes additional penalty for drivers that violate California’s hands-free law, 23123.5 CVC. For instance, through this law, a point will be added onto a driver’s record for each hands-free violation that occurred within the 36-period from a prior conviction for the same offense. Points on your driving record can increase your insurance premiums. California hopes a more severe penalty will further deter drivers from using cell phones while driving in a manner that is not hands-free.

A Trial by Written Declaration

A trial by written declaration is the best and easiest way to fight a texting while driving ticket. As stated in Vehicle Code Section 20902, Trial by Written Declaration (TR-205) allows individuals to contest their tickets in writing instead of going to court.

TicketBust Services

Through our services at TicketBust, we help you build a written defense that you then can mail to the court. If your ticket is dismissed, it means no court appearance, no fines and no added points. Contact TicketBust to get your documents prepared to dismiss your ticket today.  

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