Wednesday, April 27, 2011

California Cell Phone Laws About to Get Tougher: From $20 Fine to $50

Currently, state laws in California prohibit all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle while drivers aged 18 years old and below are banned from using a cell phone or even a hands-free device while driving. The most recent, the Wireless Communications Device Law makes it illegal for drivers to write, send, or read text while operating a motor vehicle.

The fine for violating these laws is pegged at $20 but a pending legislation may drive that fine up $50, which if computed with other fees and penalties, can cost a first offender $309.

The proposed bill, which has been approved by the state senate and is pending before the Assembly, will also impose a fine of $100 for repeat offenders. Along with added fees, drivers who continue to text and drive will have to shell out more than $500 and will have a point added to their driving record for the offense.

But this bill isn’t just a bane for texting or talking drivers – it would also cover bicyclists who use a hand-held device while riding. The first offense is punishable by a $20 fine and further offenses by $50.

According to Senator Joe Simitian, the author of said bill, the stiffer penalties will deter more people from distracted driving. Allegedly, since the passage of these cell phone bans, there is a 20 percent reduction on collisions and fatalities in California.

Distracted driving is indeed a road safety concern that should be taken seriously. However, in this generation of multi-taskers, seeing drivers with their phones on their hands while driving has almost become a common sight and $20 is hardly a deterrent. This is why an increase in the fine imposed will discourage drivers – after all, $500 is way too much to lose for just texting or talking.

However, in the event that these distracted drivers fail to heed the law against hands-free use and texting and if they cause a crash while doing so, they would not just be facing a fine, they may also be sued by their victims for negligence.