Capitol Alert

California expands restrictions for phone use while driving

No more changing your playlist or checking the directions on your smartphone while driving.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed Assembly Bill 1785, significantly expanding California’s restrictions on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel. The measure forbids drivers from “holding and operating” their devices for any reason, though it does include an exception for functions that require only “the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger,” as long as the phone is mounted on the windshield or dashboard of the car.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, introduced the bill to “prevent distracted driving.” State safety officials said in June that the number of crashes and injuries related to phone use appears to be on the rise.

While it is already illegal for drivers to call or text without a hands-free device, the law is silent on features like navigation apps that were not in wide use on cell phones when the original measures were passed by the Legislature more than eight years ago.

AB 1785 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The first infraction is punishable by a $20 fine, with the penalty rising to $50 for each subsequent offense.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff