City of Long Beach
Public Information Office
411 W. Ocean Blvd,
Long Beach, CA 90802
Effective July 1, 2021, California drivers could face increased penalties for using handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle, and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) encourages drivers to give the phone a break and focus on the road. The new law increases the penalties for distracted driving offenses to include a point on a driver’s record. Currently, the only penalty for using a cellphone in a handheld manner is a $162 fine.
Under current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free. California’s new law establishes that a driver convicted of a distracted driving offense can be issued a point on their record for each conviction occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.
Although drivers began using their cell phones less often while driving once hands-free became the law, distracted driving remains a serious safety challenge in Long Beach. Earlier this year, in a project funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety, the Health Department conducted the first annual RoadwatchLB. Community volunteers and City employees were dispersed to intersections across Long Beach to observe and collect data on distracted driving. In 30 hours, over the course of three days, volunteers observed nearly 1,000 drivers using a handheld device.
In an effort to make the roads safer, the Health Department continues to conduct educational workshops for youth and young adults to promote safe, distraction-free driving and collect and evaluate local data related to distracted driving to inform future program efforts. In partnership with other City departments and community partners, the Health Department will promote Long Beach Safe Streets Awareness Week in August and National Teen Driver Safety Week in October, while also supporting citywide efforts that aim to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in Long Beach.
Anything that takes your eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel is considered a distraction. To keep the streets safer for everyone, the Health Department advises that drivers pull over to make a call or send a text. Drivers also should silence their phones, use the Do Not Disturb function or put the phone out of reach before getting behind the wheel.Media inquiries can be directed to Lara Turnbull, Acting Bureau Manager, Community Health, Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, 562.570.4294, Lara.Turnbull@longbeach.gov.