Today, the California State Senate passed Senate Bill 1475 by a vote of 21-16 and now moves to the State Assembly for consideration. The bill would strengthen California's hands-free and no-texting laws for motorists.
"The numbers show that compliance is good and that California's hands-free law is working. We can do better though, and save even more lives," said State Senator Joe Simitian, following the bill's passage.
Research by the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California indicates a 60% compliance rate with California's hands-free driving law. That, says Simitian, means that a more significant deterrent has the potential to improve compliance and enhance public safety.
SB 1475 would increase fines for motorists who use cell phones without a hands-free device or who text while driving. Significantly, a violation of either law would add a "point" on motorists' driving records, serving as an added deterrent.
Under SB 1475, a first offense would cost $50, and subsequent offenses $100 (the current fines are $20 and $50, respectively). With penalties and fees, the total cost for a first offense would rise to approximately $255, and to $445 for a repeat offense. A portion of the increased revenues would fund a public awareness campaign focused on the dangers of distracted driving.
The bill would also apply the rules to bicyclists, who were unintentionally omitted from the original law. Cyclists would, however, face significantly lower penalties - $20 for a first offense and $50 thereafter, with no added fees - and would not receive a point on their driver's license.
CHP certified numbers from the first six months of the hands-free law's implementation show a 20 percent reduction in fatalities and collisions in California compared to the same six-month period over the past three to five years. Data from 2009 (not yet certified) confirms the trend. That translates into at least 700 fewer fatalities and 75,000 to 100,000 fewer collisions each year.
The CHP data also show an immediate drop of 40-50 percent in the number of distracted driving accidents attributed to cell phones after the law went into effect.
While Simitian said he finds the results to date gratifying, he expects that steeper penalties will create a more significant deterrent. "Compliance to date has been good," said Simitian, "but there's room for improvement. I think this will make a good law even better."
SOURCE - SenatorSimitian.com
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