On Monday, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto introduced a bill that would increase fines for those who love to commute while texting and driving. Notice that we said commute–not drive–the law, if passed, would apply to bicyclists as well.
Simitian proposed increasing the price of a ticket from $145 for not using a hands-free device to $255 and up, and a fine of $455 for text messaging while driving.
The base fines for texting on a cell phone and holding a phone while driving are currently $20 each. Simitian also proposed increasing the fines to $100 and $50, respectively.
In addition, a ticket would be counted as a moving violation, which requires violators to attend traffic school (or risk having their insurance rates soar).
California is one of six states with a hands-free law, which went into effect July 1, 2008. Since then, the California Highway Patrol has written nearly 200,000 tickets. 19 states now ban texting while driving.
Although Simitian cites data that show a 20 percent decline in fatalities and crashes in California in the first six months after the handheld ban took effect, compared to the same six-month period over the previous several years, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association has a different opinion.
“We’ve seen no evidence that handheld bans are effective,” spokesman Jonathan Adkins said. “In fact, they could be making the problem worse by encouraging drivers to drive and talk hands-free — a practice that research has shown to be just as dangerous.”
- FAQ for the hands-free law that went into effect in California on July 1, 2008
- NHTSA unveils sample legislation for text messaging while driving