Speakerphones in Cars in California

I want your impression of the following. Don’t google for it, just tell me what you think. According to the following, can you use a cell phone with a headset? Can you use a cell phone with a speaker phone in a car?

23123. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.

My interpretation:
a) Let’s say you have a cell phone with a speaker phone. If you turn on the speaker phone, it is certainly “configured to allow hands-free listening and talking”.

b) If you use this cell phone with the speaker phone activated in your car, then you are “using it in that manner while driving”.

c) Therefore, you may use your speaker phone even if you are holding your cell phone in your hand.

The California DMV believes that you are not allowed to hold the speaker phone in your hand.

Q: Does the “hands-free” law allow you to use the speaker phone function of your wireless telephone while driving?
A: Yes, as long as you are not holding the phone.

But the problem with the logic is in the wording of “configured to allow hands-free listening and talking”. Even if the cell phone user is using both hands and feet to operate their speaker phone activated cell phone, the phone is still “configured to allow hands-free listening and talking”.

That’s what the law says, so that’s that I’m going by. Find section 23123 and full California law here


  1. Free says:

    The question is whether “using it in that manner” means using it so it is configured for hands-free driving, or using it hands free while driving. I think most courts would interpret it the latter way, if only because one assumes the purpose of the legislation was to avoid people taking their hands off the wheel to operate the phone.

  2. Derek says:

    I agree with Free. According to the way this law is stated, in order to legally use a cell phone while driving, you must be able to talk and listen without using your hands by using some feature of the phone intended for that purpose, AND while talking and listening you must be using said feature and not using your hands. The “and” in the statement of the law requires both.

  3. Charlie Gosh says:

    We had a similar problem years ago when motorcyclists were first forced to wear helmets. One local activist didn’t want to do so, and wore his helmet on his knee (he was “wearing a helmet”). A policeman gave him a ticket, which he fought, and lost. Later, while wearing his helmet on his head, he fell and (supposedly) injured his knee.

    If you want to stay legal, just do what any ordinary person would do and don’t play word games.
    If you still want to play games, any attorney will gladly let you pay him to defend you after you do something screwy.

    In the meantime, just keep both hands on the wheel (duh). And if you discover you can’t keep track of your driving while you’re doing anything else, just stop.

  4. lee says:

    You people with your REASON and LOGIC… Who needs you?! Bah!

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