More drivers used their cell phone last year than in 2017, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and California State University, Fresno.

Just under five percent of California drivers were observed picking up and using their phones during an observational study, compared to just under four percent in 2017, the year the state’s cell phone law went into effect. Both figures are lower than in 2016, when just under eight percent of drivers were observed using their phones.

“Our goal is to end distracted driving, and there’s still work to be done,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “This observational survey gives us an idea on where we stand getting drivers’ attention away from their phones and where we still have work to do.”

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Phone use was more than eight times higher among drivers with no passengers versus with at least one passenger
  • Phone use was higher on local roads than on freeways or highways
  • The most common phone use by drivers was to perform a function on the phone. This could be anything from texting, email, GPS, using an app or social media
  • Less than two percent of drivers were observed using their phone with a child passenger

Under the 2017 hands-free cell phone law, drivers are not allowed to hold their phone for any reason. Phones must be mounted on the dashboard, windshield or center console and the mounted phone can only be touched once with the swipe or tap of a finger to activate or deactivate a function.

Drivers caught using their phones face a $162 fine for a first offense and at least $285 for a second offense.