California plan to double fines is dead

Sen. Simitian author of distracted driving lawsState Sen. Joe Simitian’s bid to increase the effectiveness of California’s distracted driving laws has failed, at least for 2010.

Senate Bill 1475 would have would more than doubled fines on the trio of distracted driving laws that the senator pushed through in recent years. The bill also would have applied the laws against text messaging and use of handheld cell phones to California’s bicyclists.

“The deadline for bills to pass the Appropriations Committee was Aug. 13, and since the cell phone bill did not pass the committee by the deadline, it died there,” said Phil Yost of Simitian’s office.

Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has said compliance with California’s distracted driving laws is good, but “there’s room for improvement.” He was seeking “a more significant deterrent” with the increased distracted driving fines.

California’s ban on text messaging while driving went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Fines start at $20 and go to $50 for repeat offenses. With fees, the cost of violating the state text messaging law easily tops $200.

Simitian’s bill for 2010 sought to add a point against driver’s licenses for distracted driving violations. He later amended the bill to make the point apply on the second offense.

Bicyclists groups created the early opposition to the bill, and its proposed fines were lowered in response (to $20/$50 with no points per the amendment of April 6).

California’s brutal budget crisis would have received some help from the doubled fines. The Assembly Committee on Appropriations estimated increased distracted driving fines under Senate Bill 1475 would bring in another $32 million annually.


  1. Please bring the cell phone policy to a statewide election. Let there be change, don’t let “the establishment have the final blow,” again. I work in an ER, over 50 miles from my house. Sometimes it’s nice to know what is happening at home, or if there is an emergency with someone I care about, I need to know. I have a 4 year old starting school, she calls me while I drive, since I do not have my phone out at work. My commute last 2 hours a day, no, I do not want to move closer to the hospital, I live here and work there.
    I will admit, I have talked on my cell phone, of course before the law was in effect, and text messaged… Once the law went into effect, I had a couple hiccups, like pulling my phone out and answering it. I hate, how most phones need to end the call or not answer it entirely, if you forget to turn on your bluetooth. I have not received a ticket. I agree though, to a degree, have you ever been to an ER? Or let me put it this way, you know those stupidest criminal shows? There are people that get by, but are frequently injured, or are not up to snuff, or constantly in trouble. No, not everyone will go to the olympics, or superbowl, or world series, or….practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes OK, and usually better then most. Banning vs. Regulating.
    Now let me give a for instance, I went to visit a friend in the hospital, (not even the same one I work in,) he had his appendix removed. He was asleep when I came in. The guy in bed 2, though was awake. He had bandages everywhere. The ones on his hands, look as though, he might be missing some fingers.
    I asked the occupant in bed 2, “If you don’t mind, my I ask what happened?”
    The story that followed surprised me, “I was trimming the trees in my backyard, with a chain saw. My ladder was unstable, so I climbed the tree, and secured my ladder to a branch with duct tape.”
    This is where I sat down, I knew that story was only going to get better.
    “So, it was on the ground and taped to a large branch, the largest in the tree, it was maybe, 25ft up,” I nodded to keep him feel that I was interested, I was, “also, I am a little clumsy so I tied the chain saw to my leg, and after I got it all set up, I stated my chain saw and began cutting branches as I went up the ladder. It was easy.”
    This is where I started to play all of the scenarios of how he chopped himself up.
    He continued, “I got to the top of the ladder, and tried to get all of the branches I could reach. Then, after, I started working on the last branch, it was a big one. It was weird, it was like the biggest branch was at the top of the tree. I totally forgot, that I tapped my ladder to that branch.”
    Yeah I saw it coming too, but that was not it, as I acted surprised, he went off and surprised me, “So the g.d. ladder fell right on top of me, and the limb fell on my head. Luckily the chain saw was no where near me.” WHAT? is all I was thinking, injuries didn’t match just a fall and head trauma, with possible penetration wounds to his back. “I was under the huge limb, and I could here the chain saw going in the back ground.”
    I stopped him, I do not use hardly any power tools, yet I know, “Didn’t it turn itself off when you let it go?”
    “Oh no, the trigger that turns it off, I tape it on, it takes for ever to restart,” and the first thing I thought of, was of course, I should tell Simitian, he needs to ban duct tape, just kidding, please don’t, “so after getting the ladder off me, I saw the chain saw, it was bouncing around and so I thought, I need to turn it off,” NO, NOT UNTIE MY LEG AND GO TO SAFETY.
    “I was in pain, the doctor’s say, the fall, and the ladder, and branch, gave me a concussion, broken skull, several broken ribs, my tailbone, and both hips and my left upper leg. So, I reached down deep into my soul,” probably threw up, “and jumped on the chain saw. After getting the tape off, and having a punctured lung, I could not call out for help, my wife was in the house, watching television, then I heard her leave, she went to walmart, as I laid, dying in the backyard. The neighbor saw me, and called 911. I had to call my wife at walmart after I was in the emergency room.”
    The moral: This is just one story of maybe hundreds I hear per month. There are certain people that are missing common sense, and this is the type of person involved in these accidents.
    The police, ems and other emergency agencies, can drive with a cell phone to their ear, ideally this is done appropriately. When there is no other answer. Also, these officers and healthcare providers, are assumed to have better and more extensive driving training, and testing. Myself used to work ems, shouldn’t I be able to do the things on duty effectively off duty? Of course, but as a resident, I do not put my phone to my ear as I drive, but what is the point. How about an option, all that want to pass the special licensing, need to complete a training, and testing to have certain privileges. There could be a charge for the class, state charges for test, and licensing.
    Many people drive extremely safely, even with a phone to their ear. Many people can, and some people can’t. Some people can’t swim and jump in lakes and rivers during the summer months, and we have to declare them dead some hours later at my work. It has been found that for every ten children who die by drowning, 140 are treated in emergency rooms, and 36 are admitted for further treatment in hospitals. Some of these never fully recover. Should water be banned? I have seen more food utensils used as weapons then guns, should I have a spoon safe?
    I do not think, a grown adult, would find this issue to be strong enough to base his entire career on. I have yet seen a single death by cell phone. The only the people involved in a cell phone accident are also grossly intoxicated, or tired, and easily distracted, yet usually survive. They should not be on the road in the first place.
    Has those accidents been reduced since the law, no. That population still gets into those car accidents because they do not belong on the road.
    I think the real issue is, you are trying to find a solution to the fiscal deficit, and this is your solution. Ok, not a good one, but, at least you tried. Now do something effective. Let’s look at medi-cal. Crack down on medi-cal abuse. Please consider, this will save our economy. There are dozens of patients per hospital that each one, comes to the hospital many times a week by ambulance, and after the non-urgent visit is over, they return by ambulance. These types patients have cost the state of California millions of dollars.
    Bring the hands free law to the polls, let us vote.

  2. Richard Brown says:

    Bans on texting while driving are is terribly dangerous and simply cannot be done safely. Enforcement can be an issue because it is impossible for a police officer to tell at a glance whether someone is placing a cell phone call or sending a text message. For me to call my nephew requires me to actually look at my cell phone at least three or four times to find the right buttons to push and to press buttons 21 times. It takes 17 presses of the down button in my directory to land…hopefully…on his cell phone number. I used to have to look at it for those 17 clicks, now I know I can count them. But I do have to look at the phone again to be sure I stopped on the right number. It can sure look like I am text messaging to a policeman behind or beside me.

    If I am calling someone who I don’t call often, I have to be looking at the phone the entire time I am scrolling through the directory.

    Talking on cell phones is a different matter. It is the *conversation* that is the distraction, not the act of holding a phone. All research shows that hands free devises are just as dangerous as hand held phones: One must still open the phone, look up the number, dial the number, etc. If the hands free device isn’t already hooked up, we must first frantically search the various compartments in the car looking for the earpiece and then try to hook it up and get it in our ear….all while steering with our knees. It is easier and safer to just pick up the phone and say “Hello”.

    Some safety groups actually oppose laws requiring hands free devices for fear they will lead to even more accidents: Using them gives the driver a false sense of safety and security, resulting in talking even more than before, which in turn leads to even more accidents rather than fewer accidents.

    Requiring hands free devices is only a knee-jerk feel good measure which has been proven to have no real safety benefit.

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