New Bill Increases Fines for Distracted Drivers

On April 25, the California State Senate approved a bill to increase the fines for texting while driving, according to Don Thompson of the Associated Press. California put a ban on texting while driving and the use of other mobile devices nearly three years ago.

The base fee will increase from $20 to $50 for a first-time offense, but after associated fees a violator will end up paying approximately $328. A second violation would earn someone a point on his or her license, as well as a $528 fine.

Senator Joe Simitian from Palo Alto said that his original bill three years ago deterred 60 to 70 percent of people from texting while driving, although there may be no definitive way to tell if it is actually a deterrent. CHP Spokeswoman Fran Clader said drivers don’t always admit to texting while driving when asked in surveys.

“The goal here is simply to save more lives,” Simitian said, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Although the bill passed by a 24-12 vote, it wasn’t without its dissenting opinions from Republicans such as Senator Doug LaMalfa from Willows.

“People out here, they hate this bill,” LaMalfa told the AP.  “It makes them angry that you can’t just casually use a cell phone in appropriate situations in an automobile.”  He cited the new bill as a step towards a “nanny government”.

“It’s essentially just a revenue-generating mechanism without improving public safety,” says Matt Gray, a lobbyist for Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety.

According to the L.A. Times, the ban also applies to bicyclists, with a $20 penalty for the first offense and a $50 penalty for the second.