Vehicle Code Section 23124, which took effect January 1, 2014, prohibits people under the age of 18 years old from using a cell phone while driving, even if the cell phone is equipped with a hands-free device. The purpose of this law is to keep the roads safe. Most people today know that driving while using a hand-held cell phone is dangerous and illegal. After Vehicle Code Section 23123 took effect, hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets and speakers have become quite ubiquitous. However, several studies have shown that driving while using a cell phone equipped with a hands-free device can be dangerous as well. Young people who are still learning how to drive are particularly at risk for being distracted by cell phones with or without a hands-free device.
In accordance with the legal doctrine of negligence per se, any time a driver violates a traffic law and causes a crash that harms somebody, he or she is presumed negligent if the traffic law violation is a substantial factor in bringing about the harm. Jurors are given the task of determining who is responsible when there is a jury trial involving damages from a car crash. The negligence per se doctrine helps to simplify the jurors' job by giving them a clear standard for determining wrongdoing. Now, a 16- or 17-year-old driver who causes a car crash because he or she is using a cell phone will be presumed responsible. Traffic laws like Vehicle Code Section 23124 are important because they deter dangerous activity and they give jurors the tools they need to compensate injured victims of that dangerous activity.