updated 9/16/2006 12:17:59 AM ET 2006-09-16T04:17:59

Drivers in California will need an ear piece or speaker to use their mobile phones while on the road under a bill signed Friday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Motorists could face fines of up to $50 if they violate the law, which makes it an infraction to hold a cell phone while driving. It takes effect July 1, 2008, and is similar to laws in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington D.C.

Cell-phone use is the top cause of accidents triggered by distracted drivers, according to California Highway Patrol statistics dating to 2001.

“The simple fact is, it’s dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving,” Schwarzenegger said. “So getting people’s hands off their phones and onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in road safety.”

Calls made to emergency-service providers are exempt, as are drivers of emergency vehicles. Commercial vehicle drivers can use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011.

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