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The State Senate recently approved SB 1310 that will raise fines on California motorists caught violating state law by using cell phones behind the wheel. This bill will impose a base fine of $30 for a first offense, $10 more than the current fine for drivers caught texting or chatting without a hands-free device. The increase will bring the total fee of first-time offenders to about $199.
Multiple offenses may carry a base fine of $60, or $319 in fees, and a one-point penalty on the driver's license. The additional revenues will be used to educate California drivers about the laws and dangers of driving while on the phone or texting.
The bill will also prohibit bicyclists from talking or texting on a cell phone.
Author of the bill Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) stated that the fine hike will improve compliance with the state's hands-free laws, leading to fewer accidents and fatalities. He reported that a recent study proved such incidents have dropped by more than 20 percent since the state's rules on talking and texting while driving laws took effect.
Only two Republicans supported the bill. Senator Doug La Malfa said he would prefer law enforcement target motorists driving recklessly in general instead of targeting cell phone usage. "The fines are huge, the burden is high," the La Malfa stated, “you talk to just regular people out there most of them hate this ban." Last year, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation to increase base fines to $50 for a first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. "For people of ordinary means, current fines and penalty assessments should be sufficient deterrent," the Governor wrote in a veto message.
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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