Californians must get hands-free or pay

LOS ANGELES Millions of Californians will have to buy a hands-free device or risk a run-in with the law starting July 1.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Rob Hayes' report.

The law allows you to dial, but once you start talking, you can't be holding your phone. Your phone must be in a mounted cradle or at least in speaker phone mode in your lap. You can also use a headset or a blue tooth ear piece.

There has been a lot of criticism about the law. Experts said it's not the act of holding your phone that's dangerous. It's the fact that drivers are focusing on the conversation instead of on the road.

However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger defended the law during a Caltrans news conference in Eagle Rock.

"According to some estimates, getting drivers hands off the cell phones and onto the steering wheel will save almost 300 lives a year in California," Schwarzenegger said.

"Even I in driving my car am distracted when I have the phone, and I'm getting more distracted when someone else is calling when I'm not using the phone. Habits have to be broken," said Sheriff Lee Baca.

Hands free devices cost anywhere from $20 for a wireless headset to several hundred dollars for units that are installed in your vehicle, but the price of the tickets can be a bit misleading.

Fines are pitched at $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent citations, but by the time you add in fees and penalty assessments, the first offense is really $76, and later tickets will cost $190.

Click here to find out how to get a free headset


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