Texting-while-driving bill gets legislature's OK

Senate Bill 28, by Palo Alto State Sen. Joe Simitian, heads to governor's desk and would increase fines

The fines for texting on or holding a cell phone while driving in California could get much steeper if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill the California State Legislature passed Monday.

Under Senate Bill 28, by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the cost of a first offense would rise from roughly $189 to approximately $309 -- amounts vary slightly by county -- when penalities and fees are included. The actual first-offense fine would be $50, up from the current $20. Subsequent offenses would cost $100, up from $50, and add a "point" to the driver's record.

For the first time, the law would apply to cyclists as well, though they would pay only $20 for a first offense and $50 thereafter, with no added fees and no point added to their driving records.

Simitian is the author of three previous distracted-driving laws. He said Monday that while the current hands-free phone laws are working, a stronger law would increase compliance and decrease the number of accidents, according to a press statement from his office.

Simitian's Senate Bill 1613 (2006) made it illegal for California drivers to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. It took effect July 1, 2008.

Senate Bill 33 (2007) prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from texting, talking on a cell phone or using any "mobile service" technology while driving, even with a hands-free device. It also took effect July 1, 2008.

Senate Bill 28 (2008) made it illegal for all drivers in California to send, read or write text messages while driving. It went into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Research suggests 60 to 70 percent of drivers comply with the hands-free law, according to the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California and the State's Office of Traffic Safety.

Data from the California Highway Patrol showed a drop of 40-50 percent in the number of distracted-driving accidents caused by use of hand-held cell phones after the law went into effect in 2008. There were 612 accidents from January to June 30, 2008, and only 315 in the following six months. Those numbers only reflect drivers who were willing to admit they were using their cell phone while driving, Simitian's office noted. Overall there were more than 30,000 accidents due to inattention in 2008, with causes ranging from cell-phone use to reading to dealing with a child in the car to attending to personal hygiene.

Senate Bill 28 also provides funding for distracted-driver education through the Office of Traffic Safety; creates a primary offense for teenage drivers who violate SB 33 (2007); and allows the state to qualify for potential federal funding on distracted driving.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff


Like this comment
Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Aug 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Looks like I really have to buckle down and not use a cell phone at all while I am driving. Such steep fines are looming. Who has extra money for these steep fines and what the ticket acutally costs when you receive it?

Like this comment
Posted by MVFlyer
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Hopefully this will be enough to deter the 30-40% who haven't figured out that using a handheld cell phone is dangerous. And, I see lots of people who are using speaker phone capability, but holding it near their mouths--this is also illegal!!!

I doubt the law will make a big difference, though--it's very tough to catch these folks, and they don't believe they're doing anything potentially harmful.

Like this comment
Posted by Deterrent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm

These penalties still aren't enough to overcome people's assessment of the penalty vs. the risk of being caught. If the data TRULY shows that texting/calling while driving is as dangerous as DUI, then make the penalty the same. Report the names of the violators in the crime blog just like DUIs.

Otherwise we're just putzing around.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Anything short of DUI penalties is BS.

Like this comment
Posted by The Eye
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm

The Eye is a registered user.

@Old Ben and Deterrent: I hate to post what is basically a "Me too" here, but you're right on the money. If the data truly supports the contention that texting while driving is equally as hazardous as DUI, then the penalties should indeed be identical. It simply makes perfect common sense.

Like this comment
Posted by Hog wash
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 19, 2011 at 10:52 am

This is a money grab by the state and county. The law is flawed and so is Simitian. It's not the holding of the cell phone that's distracting the driver, it's the inattention which is caused by the conversation that is the distraction! I don't need to have both hands on the steering wheel to drive safely, in fact regardless if I have a phone or some other object in my hand, both hands are rarely on the steering wheel together. How many times have you seen drivers with a cup of coffee in their hand or eating while driving. If you believe Simitian and the CHP these people should be getting into accidents also, and if this is true these things should be banned while driving. The law is poorly written and does not address the real issues which is DISTRACTED DRIVING in particular while having a phone conversation. Simitian is using the cellular phone as a scape goat to push a law that I suspect has something to do with the lobbyist who is the money behind this bill. This is par for the course for California politics and legislators lining their own pockets while this becomes more and more a nanny state with the highest tax's in the country! Just another way of taxing californian's through "fees" without raising tax's.

Like this comment
Posted by Jester
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

this suks. let me txt wen i want to

Sent from my iPhone

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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