Drivers under 18 could face fines for using cell phones, pagers or text-messaging devices -- even hands-free -- while behind the wheel, under a proposed law making its way through the state legislature, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, announced Monday.
"It will save lives," Simitian gave as the "one simple reason" he introduced SB 33. Simitian cited research claiming teen drivers are four times more distracted than adult drivers when using cell phones.
The bill passed the state Assembly Monday on a 62 to 5 vote, Simitian's office reported. It now moves to the state Senate, and if passed to the Governor's office. If signed it would go into effect July 1, 2008.
The bill would prohibit drivers under 18 from using cell phones, pagers, text-messaging devices, laptops and other mobile devices such as walkie-talkies.
The law would apply even to hands-free versions of cell phones and other devices, Simitian said.
Similar legislation has already been passed in 13 states and the District of Columbia, and is pending in 16 more states, Simitian said.
"Year after year, car crashes are the number-one cause of death among teenagers," Simitian said. "The young drivers who are using cell phones, pagers and PDAs while driving are putting not only themselves at risk but all of us as well."
Under the law, first-time violators would be fined $20, and $50 for each additional offense.
Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 1613 -- also by Simitian. It will require all drivers using cell phones to use a hands-free device. That law also goes into effect July 1.