The California legislature last week sent legislation to Governor Jerry Brown (D) designed to boost the number of citations issued for for driving while talking with a cell phone in hand. The measure also increases the maximum possible fine to $528.
The state Senate last Monday gave final approval to Senate Bill 28 by a vote of 23 to 13, and the Assembly had done the same in July by 51 to 21. The measure increases the current first offense fine for holding a cell phone behind the wheel from $208 to $328 and a second offense from $328 to $528 with one license point. Talking on a handheld cell phone while driving has been illegal since January 2009, but it has been a secondary offense. If Brown signs the bill into law, it would become a primary offense, meaning police could pull someone over for using a cell phone without needing to identify any other traffic violation.
State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the bill’s sponsor, insists the existing ban has been successful and should be expanded. The Legislative Analysts Office believes the evidence is far from conclusive. In the two years before the initial cell phone ban took effect and in the two years after, the number of fatal and injury collisions involving a cell phone using driver stayed effectively the same at between .09 percent and .11 percent before and .10 after.
Because the bill would drive up insurance rates for ticket recipients, AAA Northern California, which sells insurance, backed the legislation. Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety spoke out against the bill.
“The reason for the insignificance of hands-free use versus hands-on use is attributed to the fact that the manner in which the cellphone is used is irrelevant, because it is the conversation itself that distracts drivers and contributes to collisions,” the taxpayer group explained in a statement. “Therefore, the approach taken by SB 28 and previously related anti-cellphone legislation appears to be based upon erroneous conclusions, and seeks to address a mere symptom — but not the cause — of behavior which leads to collisions and thereby adversely impacts our level of public safety.”
Bicyclists would also be fined $20 for riding while talking into a phone for the first time and $50 for the second.
A copy of the bill is available in a 130k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Senate Bill 28 (California State Legislature, 8/16/2011)