A bill that would increase the base fines for distracted driving passed the California State Senate Tuesday, May 15.
Senate Bill 1310, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would increase first offense fines for driving while using a cell phone without a hands-free device from $10 to $20 and subsequent fines from $50 to $60.
The bill passed by a vote of 24-9 but must also be approved by the state assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown.
After penalties and court fees, the violations would translate to roughly $251 or $372 out-of-pocket. The extra $10 incurred would go directly to the Distracted Driving Education Fund.
The bill would also assess a driving violation point on the motorists' driving record for a second offense.
Another change to existing law would be that law enforcement officers would have the ability to stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of determining whether or not the driver was using a cell phone while driving.
The bill would extend distracted driving fines to bicyclists as well. The fines would be $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Bicyclists would not receive a point on their driving record for multiple offenses.
Studies found that in the two years following the adoption of the 2008 distracted driving law, cell-phone-related driver deaths decreased by 47 percent. Overall traffic-related deaths also fell by 22 percent.
Cell phone convictions have been on the rise every year with a total of 460,487 convictions in 2011, according to California DMV reports. That is a 22 percent increase from 2010 (361,260) and a 52 percent increase from 2009 (301,833).
Simitian has additionally authored Senate Bill 28 and 33. SB28 banned all text-messaging while driving in 2008, and SB33 prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone under any circumstances, with or without a hands-free device.