Calif. Senate Approves Higher Fines For Breaking Hands-Free Law

SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Nearly three years after California made it illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving, the state Senate on Monday approved a bill that would increase fines for texting or using a handheld cell phone while driving.

The base fine would increase from $20 to $50 per violation under the bill, which now goes to the Assembly. With various fees, a first offense would cost $328, up from the current $208.

A repeat offender could be fined $100, or $528 with fees. A subsequent violation would also add one point to the motorist’s driving record.

“The goal here is simply to save more lives,” said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.

He said his original bill, which took effect in July 2008, deterred 60 percent to 70 percent of drivers from using handheld devices while driving, even as the use of cell phones increased.

However, he said it will take more deterrence and education to bring compliance near the 90-plus percent seen for the use of seat belts. Under the bill, $10 from each fine would go to a fund to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

His SB28 also would make it illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone while riding a bicycle.

Simitian cites California Highway Patrol statistics showing a 20 percent reduction in fatalities and collisions in the first year after his handsfree law took effect in July 2008. The texting-while-driving prohibition took effect in January 2009. He said the statistics show the law helped save at least 700 lives and avoid more than 75,000 collisions annually compared to previous years.

A Senate analysis of 2005 and 2010 crash statistics found “a significant downward trend,” but couldn’t attribute the trend to less cell phone use. The analysis found a less significant drop when comparing only those crashes were cell phone use was listed as a contributing cause.

CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said that is because drivers are often reluctant to admit they were using a cell phone illegally. Neither the CHP nor Simitian’s office had statistics on crashes involving bicyclists using cell phones.

Simitian’s bill passed on a 24-12 vote, over the objections of several Republicans who said the bill goes too far and is disliked by drivers.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

  • corey

    Not being able to taly wile riding a bike, thats plain looking to take money out of out pockets. Driving I understant and support but biking come on now thats obsurd. Could a bike crash kill someone nope, well if you road your bike off a cliff wile texting it could but that should be up to you not the state.

    • Venus

      Bike crash may not kill someone but it could still cost taxpayers. If you seriously crash on someone, or got hit by a car because you were texting while riding a bike and an ambulance has to come to save you, that’s a taxpayer’s money wasted… is it worth it? I really think that the city should enforce this law more strictly, more money for the city and more safety for everyone… and while we’re at it, I think that the city should also reinforce fining people who vandalize and litter.

      • not-Venus

        Venus has obviously never been on a bike to post such a ridiculous comment.

        Hey, Venus, I do hope you get hit with a $500 fine.

      • anonymous

        doesn’t the person using the ambulance have to pay for it (or the person responsible for the accident), not the taxpayers as a whole?

  • corey

    Also in an unrelated post you can get a DUI wile riding a bike that is just as serious as driving a car. That means if someone wanted to go have a fun night out at a ban and was biking to avoid driving drunk they will be punished for being safe this again is another way for them to make money for there budget from us rather than spend money wisely total BS.

    • gary

      corey bicyles fall under the DMV definition of a moving vehicle. a drunk person on a bike can get killed just as easy as someoen driving a car. it is dangerous. if you want to drink call acab

    • Cowboy

      You can get a DUI while horseback riding also.

  • slh

    I’m not crazy enough to text while driving, but I think the fees are ridiculous. With the economy as it is, $328 would be crippling for people able to survive.

    This isn’t about public safety, but getting more money out of Californians.

    • proud_bay_man

      2600 deaths a year and 330,000 accidents a year in this country isn’t about public safety? Get real.

      • Blacque Jacques Shellacque

        If it truly was about “public safety”, the appropriate penalty would be to assign a higher point penalty to the infraction to put the offender a lot closer to a suspended license. The fact that fines are simply being increased means that the state is looking at the whole issue as a revenue source.

    • Joe

      Simple obey the law and you won’t get charged anything. I still see people talking and texting and they are always causing some kind of traffic issue be it a total slow down or just the lane their in.

    • A Reader

      I agree that the amount of fees charged is outrageous, but given the current fiscal crisis faced by the state of CA, I am not surprised at all. The state government is seeking ways to increase their revenue in many, many ways.

      However, I concur with Joe and proud_bay_man’s words and solution: One simply has to stop texting or using handheld cell phones while driving. When you put the penalty of $328 against the cost of human lives, it is but a small price to pay.

    • Venus

      Are you serious? I think that is a small fine… If anything, unsafe driving like that should be fined thousands! That way, irresponsible drivers will think twice before violating that law. If they can’t afford this fine, the solution is simple, stay away from your phone while driving!

  • reggie smythe

    why don’t the morons in sacramento vote to void every labor contract not negotiated in the best intertests of the people of california?

  • slh

    As a Democrat, I have to say that I’m getting sick of our State Democrats. Seems every time a new stupid law is being proposed, it’s from a Democrat.

    • proud_bay_man

      What a lame comment. Bet you’re on the phone right now.

      • Blacque Jacques Shellacque

        It may sound lame to you, but it’s 100% true.

  • Bob

    I say it’s time for statewide referendum to eliminate all the additional fees added on to the fines. $50 fine plus $278 in various fees – it’s bs and it’s time the to ask the voters if they’re fed up with these gov’t shenanigans. I’ve been a dem for life but enough is enough, I’m switching parties. Simitian is trying to turn California into another Singapore.


    >>Republicans objected, saying the bill goes too far and is disliked by drivers.<< Does this mean the legislature should only make laws that drivers like?

  • Joe

    You can tell who are the ones in the comments that talk and text while driving. Personally I think it is fair if you don’t want to be charged then simply obey the law. The whole reason it’s been changed is because drivers ignore the law and I see them all the time causing backups near misses and they are oblivious to it and anything else going on around them while they drive. When your driving a vehicle that can kill and destroy in an instance you should be totally concentrated on driving. If you think it isn’t an issue then that’s because your the one on the phone causing the problems to begin with so of course your going to think it’s excessive. I support this totally cause I am tired of the problems I see every day on the road caused by these people who view their car as a phone booth, diner or bathroom. Do your hair, nails, shave, read the paper, eat, drink, talk on the phone or text on your own time and stop being a detriment to every other driver on the road.

  • proud_bay_man

    ” saying the bill goes too far and is disliked by drivers”
    Sorry, I’m a driver and I say fine them up the wazoo. This is causing 2600 deaths and 330,000 accidents in this country a year. Unacceptable. I am sick of being behind people who are on their phone and you have to honk at them to make them pay attention to traffic. The only drivers who are upset are the ones who like to talk and drive. If you want to talk and drive, get an automobile driving video game and sit on your couch. This way you are not hurting or killing anyone.

  • arod

    do you remember that accidents came way before cell phones tired of politicans sucking money out of people and they keep getting pay raisies

  • Wes

    I completely understand texting, but how would talking on a phone distract a good driver? I wonder how many of those car crashes are because people are texting while hiding it in their lap verses just talking over the phone to the ear without worry of getting ticketed. What is next? Will we close drive-thru joints? or ticket me for sneezing more then three times in a row while driving? There comes a point when laws are stupid…”are we there yet?”

  • Richard Boyle

    Common sense tells you that if you don’t have both hands on the wheel you don’t have control of your car. HOw hard is that to figure out for these yapping/texting nitwits?

    • sue bridges

      I take it you have never changed your radio or cd, eaten or taken a drink while driving. Both hands are not on the wheel then, should we just make everything illegal.

  • Mainstreet

    I see that the thieves and swindlers of the democratic party controlled state Senate will do any body in with cruel and unusual punishment; as they have no honor to the will of the people, only their police state ideals for we the people. These senator thieves cannot raise taxes without the vote of the people. They have such a bad record of ignoring the constitutional Rights of the people that they ring the money out of the people with Cruel and Unusual Punishment I think it is time to charge the California Senate with treason to the Constitution

  • Don't call me

    Turn on GPS on your phone and lay it on the seat next to you. You get a fine.
    Check the time on your phone while stopped at a red light. You get a fine.
    Passenger using a phone – You get a fine.

    Don’t touch your phone while the car is moving – makes perfect sense.
    But this law is absolutely ridiculous.

    Please make the driving test HARDER and don’t issue licenses to people who can’t figure out how to drive safely.

  • mitch

    Think about the last time another driver frustrated you – was the other driver on their cell phone? Probably.

  • Enough

    I like Joe’s comments…Joe, I am guilty of texting while driving and it is your simple wisdom that is going to make me stop.


    Reformed Texter

  • WASP

    Of course, the law WON’T APPLY to COPS or other gov’t officials…they can drive around at twice the speed limit, running red lights and using their cell phones because they have special powers…the power to consume taxes.

  • ex-Democrat

    Any “downward trend” in traffic fatalities has more to do with fewer people on the road – thanks to Obama and the DEMS’ failed economic policies that have produced $5 gas.

  • Craig Foster

    While I don’t use a cellphone, I am astounded by the percentage of cellphone users who don’t own a Bluetooth headset. Why not? According to a cellphone shop, all cellphones in the last 3 years, and most cellphones in the last 5 years are Bluetooth enabled. You can go to Fry’s and buy a headset for $15, program it to mate up with your cellphone, and be hands-free legal while driving. $15 sure beats a $300+ fine (which may turn into a moving violation in the future).

  • R. Citores

    Can we have a law that will protect us from dying? If it was not for a politician’s money grabbing law, we would be all dead, I guess. Since when a law will help to educate the public? Mainly since only $10 goes to education. So, after $50 increase, they “invest” about 3% for the good cause and steal the rest of it. How about if 97% goes to the educating the public and 3% for the politicians. We just measure everything by money and it is all about new form of hidden taxes. I am glad we all will be so well educated that we wouldn’t be able to fail. I am happy now. I feel so safe again. Thanks Senators!!!

  • Brian

    What people refuse to realize is that cell phones are NUMBER 8 on the list of distractions causing accidents. Numbers 1 and 2? Eating while driving and adjusting the car stereo. Until people are screaming to ban drive thru food and car stereos, it is a simple case of hypocrisy. Sorry folks, sometimes reality gets in the way of a good rant.

  • The Louman

    Ridiculous! This isn’t about public safety…this is about revenue generation to cover salaries for public workers driving with higher gas prices.

    I’m sick of this ongoing legacy of Californian Democrat Nannys!!

    Please Get these Nanny State Democrats outta here!

  • Padmanabham

    Any two way communication while driving a car in a crowded street or thick traffic is unsafe. I absolutely have no problem talking on cellphone while you are cruising on the freeway with very less traffic.

  • Retired Traffic Supervisor

    Sad to say but these traffic and other new laws aren’t about public safety anymore; they’re all about gouging the public with excessive fees as our legislators can’t balance a budget including cutting back on their frivolous perks.

    It used to be $17 extra for every $10 of fine amount! What’s next?

  • Unhappy with SJDP

    My question is how do we deal with dishonest police officers? What is to stop them from randomly stopping people and siting them? A year ago I was sited for using a cell phone while driving. I was not and when I tried to tell the officer this fact he became emotional and threatening. I decided to take this to court, and now, to add insult to injury, the police officer stood before the judge and flat out lied! You could have knocked me over with a feather! To make matters worse, even thought I brought my cell phone records, the judge, bless her heart, didn’t even look at them. My understanding of the legal system is a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I guess this is not the case in San Jose.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Shine A Light On The Holiday Season With ‘Giving Tuesday’
Food For Families Drive

Listen Live