Three years after enacting a law requiring drivers to use hands-free cell phone technology, the California Legislature sought to further the safety of all on the road. However, the Legislature's proposed increases for distracted driving fines ultimately led to the bill's veto.
According to state senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the hands-free law "significantly" lowered the number of fatal accidents in California. Statistics cited by The Daily Journal support Sen. Simitian's claim; during the first year California's hands-free law was in effect, the number of vehicle accidents dropped 20 percent and the number of fatalities fell by approximately 700. Yet, even though AAA Automobile Club of Southern California and the California Office of Traffic Safety estimate that between 60 and 70 percent of drivers comply with the hands-free law, fatal accidents still occur as a result of distracted driving.
In an effort to further deter drivers from texting or talking on cell phones without hands-free technology, the Legislature passed a law that would increase the fines for violations. The fines for first offenses would rise from $20 to $50, and subsequent offenses would increase from $50 to $100. In addition, a point would be added to drivers' licenses for subsequent violations - that may result in increased insurance premiums for the driver.
The only effect that the proposed law would have on teen drivers is to make using a cell phone for texting or talking a primary offense. Teens under the age of 18 are banned from texting or talking, even with hands-free technology, while driving.
The law passed the California Legislature in August 2011, but in early September Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. In doing so, the governor stated that he supported efforts to "discourage" people from using cell phones while driving, but did not support increasing the fines drivers face for violations.
An attorney can help you seek compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering following an accident involving a distracted driver. After an accident, speak with an attorney to discuss your options.
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