Distracted driving is a nationwide epidemic. There are countless laws, ad campaigns, and grassroots efforts to warn of the dangers of using your phone while driving or otherwise taking your eyes off the road. Even switching songs on your playlist or changing your route in your navigation app of choice have proven dangerous and wound up as ticketable offenses in some areas. It's always best practice to pull over if you absolutely must use your phone, though it is legal to do so at red lights or stop signs while stopped, in some states. Having to pull over to do just about anything with your phone, with the signing of a new bill proposed by Democratic assembly member Bill Quirk, is now the law in the state of California.
For years, it has been illegal to do much with your phone in California; phone calls without a handsfree device, for example, have been illegal for some time, but the law did not account for changing music tracks, the texting and driving trend that's currently going on, or things like navigational aids on a phone that may need to be tended to mid-route. This new law addresses exactly those things, and it does so pretty aggressively; any action concerning a smartphone that requires more than a single tap or swipe cannot be done in the car, even with a window or vent mount. "Holding and operating" a device is banned outright. This means that seeking a specific music track, picking a contact to call, and rerouting yourself in mid-navigation can no longer be done while a vehicle is being operated, unless they're done by voice commands.
The bill, AB1785, is officially on the books and will become effective on January 1, 2017. From that date onward, police will be pulling over anybody they see with any kind of handheld device like a smartphone in their hand while behind the wheel, as well as anybody who spends more than a split second with a finger touching their device in a mount. The law is not specific, but this presumably applies to Bluetooth speakers with built-in control buttons, as well, which means that skipping multiple songs to find one you like or holding the button down to initiate voice commands is now a no-go. Drivers will have to pay $20 on their first offense, and $50 for each one from then on.