Does a cellphone ticket hurt my driving record in California? Here’s what the law says

Using a cellphone while driving is illegal in California and can result in a traffic ticket.

Anything that takes your eyes off of the road is considered distracted driving, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. These actions include texting, scrolling through social media feeds and even scrolling through a playlist.

Drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if they text while driving,” according to the state.

But does a distracted driving violation, such as using a cellphone while driving, show up on your record?

The Sacramento Bee’s service journalism team is answering this reader question. Here’s what we found:

How much will a cellphone violation cost you?

A first texting and driving violation carries a $20 fine, according to California Vehicle Code 23123. Any cellphone violation after that carries an additional $50.

California law only allows drivers to use their cellphones for emergencies such as calling a medical provider, the fire department or any other emergency agency.

When will a distracted driving ticket end up as points in your driving record?

A distracted driving violation will not result in a point on your driving record, according to Best Online Traffic School, a DMV-approved online driving program.

But a motorist will get a point in their driving record if the driver incurs two distracted driving citations within 36 months, according to the traffic website.

In California, a driver’s license may be suspended or revoked with an accumulation of 4 points within 12 months, 6 points within 24 months, or 8 points within 36 months. It takes 36 months for a point to be removed from a driving record.

This is based on the DMV Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) that assigns points to individual driving records of motorists aged 18 and older.

For example, a speeding ticket incurs a motorist one point, but driving under the influence is a two-point offense, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles website. The total number of points a driver gets on their record can negatively impact their insurance premiums and can result in a suspended license and probation.

How points can hurt your driving record

Here is how accumulated points can hurt your driving record:

Warning letter

  • Two points issued within 12 months

  • Four points issued within 24 months

  • 6 points issued within 36 months

Notice of intent to suspend

  • Three points issued within 12 months

  • Five points issued within 24 months

  • Seven points issued within 36 months

Order of probation/suspension

  • Four points issued within 12 months

  • Six points issued within 24 months

  • Eight points issued within 36 months

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