California wants to toughen up on texting driver and cyclists
For more than a year, California drivers have faced fines from $20 to $50 for getting caught texting while driving. If the latest bill proposition from Sen. Joe Simitian receives approval from the House, Senate and Governor, motorists would face higher fines, and cyclist would be fined for texting while… pedaling.
Senate Bill 1475 is looking to increase fines for text messages or using a handheld cell phone while driving to $50 for a first offense and $100 for additional offenses, plus one point against a driver’s license for each offense. Including court fees, the actual cost for those fines would be $255 and $445 respectively. It would also ban anyone under the age of 18 from riding a bicycle or driving a car while using a cell phone, even if equipped with a hands-free device.
“I think it will make a good law even better,” said Simitian to The Sacramento Bee. “With every passing year there is a greater appreciation for the risks of distractions while driving.”
The initial version of the bill faced some opposition from cycling groups. They argued that someone on a bike could not cause as much damage as a distracted driver. Sen. Simitian reminded them that distracted cyclists too can cause car crashes.
The complaints did make him back up a bit. According to a legislative aide for Sen. Simitian, the bill presented to the Senate would not add a point to someone’s driving license, and would lower the fine for a first-time offense from $50 to $20. Cyclists would also avoid court fees.
If approved, the bill would require that $10 from each collected fine be used to develop a special education program on the dangers of cell phone and text messaging while driving.
The tentative effective date is scheduled for July 1, 2011
Source: New York Times, April 7, 2010; The Sacramento Bee, June 3, 2010;