Online Auto Insurance: Recent Court Decision Clears Up a Grey Area in Calif. Cell-Phone Ban

November 23, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
A recent California court ruling that a motorist caught talking on his hand-held cell phone broke state law that restricts the use of wireless devices behind the wheel-even though he was stopped at a red light at the time-should clear up some confusion for drivers statewide, according to Online Auto Insurance (OAI).

Text-messaging or talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device is illegal and can be costly in the Golden State. In addition to fines and other penalties, those unsafe behaviors have been shown to cause accidents, which-even if they're not serious-can lead to at-fault drivers missing out on cheap auto insurance in California.

And according to a state appeals court decision handed down last week, state law applies even when you're waiting for the light to turn green.

The 1st District Court of Appeal found that Richmond resident Carl Nelson was technically driving, despite being temporarily stopped at a traffic signal, when he was ticketed by a police officer two years ago.

Nelson had argued that, because the vehicle wasn't moving, he couldn't have been driving. But the court pointed out that using a mobile device while surrounded by passing traffic is hazardous, something state and federal safety officials have been saying for years.

Distracted driving-which can include eating or drinking and applying makeup, in addition to texting or talking on the phone behind the wheel-was to blame for 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009, the most recent year for which in-depth statistics are available. And 18 percent of traffic fatalities involved reports of a driver being distracted by a cell phone.


In light of those statistics, OAI advises motorists to either wait until they reach their destination or pull over and park before making a call or messaging.

The state appeals court upheld a lower panel's finding that Nelson must pay more than $100 in fines and other penalties, which is actually relatively light compared with the fees facing many Californians who are convicted of violating the law.

On average, the total costs for a first offense are about $190, according to state officials.

To learn more about this and other car insurance issues, readers can go to where they will find informative resource pages and a rate-comparison generator that can help users quickly evaluate their coverage options.