Simitian aims to raise fines for distracted drivers

Bill that would increase fines for drivers who text, talk on cell phones without hands-free devices passes state Senate

A proposal by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) to raise fines for drivers who text while behind the wheel cleared a legislative hurdle Monday when the state Senate voted to approve it.

The bill, which now proceeds to the state Assembly, would increase the fine for drivers who use cell phones without a hands-free device or text while driving from $20 to $50 for a first offense. The fine for each subsequent offense would go up from $50 to $100.

More significantly, the new law would put a point on the record of drivers with more than one cell-phone violation.

Simitian estimated in a statement that when all fees and penalties are taken into account, the total cost of a first offense would be about $309.

The new bill would also apply to bicyclists, though they would face smaller fines than motorists. For bicyclists, the ticket for a first offense would be $20, while subsequent offenses would net $50 tickets.

The state Senate approved the bill 24-12.

In his statement, Simitian cited California Highway Patrol data that showed a drop of more than 40 percent in the number of driving accidents attributed to drivers distracted by cell phones in the first year of the hands-free law. He said he expects the new law to serve as a further deterrent.

"Compliance to date has been good, but there's room for improvement," Simitian said. "I think this will make a good law even better."

Simitian has previously authored three other cell-phone laws, including the 2006 law making it illegal for drivers to talk on the phone without hands-free devices, a 2007 law barring drivers under 18 to talk on the phone while driving (with or without hands-free devices) and a 2008 law banning texting while driving. But according to the Economist, the former Palo Alto mayor doesn't expect the state to adopt a full-on ban on talking while driving any time soon.

"I don't think we'll see an outright ban in my lifetime in California," Simitian told the news magazine.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 2,675 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 42 comments | 2,091 views

Premarital and Couples: Living as Roommates?
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,478 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 898 views

A trial run
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 557 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.