News

Texting-while-driving bill gets legislature's OK

Senate Bill 28, by Palo Alto State Sen. Joe Simitian, heads to governor's desk and would increase fines

The fines for texting on or holding a cell phone while driving in California could get much steeper if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill the California State Legislature passed Monday.

Under Senate Bill 28, by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the cost of a first offense would rise from roughly $189 to approximately $309 -- amounts vary slightly by county -- when penalties and fees are included. The actual first-offense fine would be $50, up from the current $20. Subsequent offenses would cost $100, up from $50, and add a "point" to the driver's record.

For the first time, the law would apply to cyclists as well, though they would pay only $20 for a first offense and $50 thereafter, with no added fees and no point added to their driving records.

Simitian is the author of three previous distracted-driving laws. He said Monday that while the current hands-free phone laws are working, a stronger law would increase compliance and decrease the number of accidents, according to a press statement from his office.

Simitian's Senate Bill 1613 (2006) made it illegal for California drivers to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. It took effect July 1, 2008.

Senate Bill 33 (2007) prohibited drivers under the age of 18 from texting, talking on a cell phone or using any "mobile service" technology while driving, even with a hands-free device. It also took effect July 1, 2008.

Senate Bill 28 (2008) made it illegal for all drivers in California to send, read or write text messages while driving. It went into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Research suggests 60 to 70 percent of drivers comply with the hands-free law, according to the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California and the State's Office of Traffic Safety.

Data from the California Highway Patrol showed a drop of 40-50 percent in the number of distracted-driving accidents caused by use of hand-held cell phones after the law went into effect in 2008. There were 612 accidents from January to June 30, 2008, and only 315 in the following six months. Those numbers only reflect drivers who were willing to admit they were using their cell phone while driving, Simitian's office noted. Overall there were more than 30,000 accidents due to inattention in 2008, with causes ranging from cell-phone use to reading to dealing with a child in the car to attending to personal hygiene.

Senate Bill 28 also provides funding for distracted-driver education through the Office of Traffic Safety; creates a primary offense for teenage drivers who violate SB 33 (2007); and allows the state to qualify for potential federal funding on distracted driving.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

According to the text of the bill, this increase in penalty for use of a wireless device also applies to riding bicycles:

Web Link

.. would apply similar prohibitions to a person riding a bicycle

It's about time to specifically target bicyclists for fines, the same as vehicular drivers.



Like this comment
Posted by thank you Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Thank you, Sen. Simitian. As a pedestrian, I see a lot of cars running red lights. More than half the time, I can see that the car driver has a cell phone in his or her hand. I am sure that bigger fines and stricter enforcement will make our streets safer.


Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm

"(4) Existing law prohibits a law enforcement officer from stopping
a vehicle for the sole purpose of determining whether the driver is
violating the prohibition of driving a motor vehicle while using a
wireless telephone.
This bill would delete that prohibition."

And that is what is it really all about. Who writes this drivel?

" (c) For purposes of this section, a person shall not be deemed to
be writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication if the
person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an
electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making
or receiving a telephone call."

Officer, I wasn't texting, I was just looking up names and numbers in my address book, honest!

qq


Like this comment
Posted by thank you Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

qq - you know how politics works. The original bill was tougher and safer, but the cell phone companies bribed members of the opposition party to water it down.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

"but the cell phone companies bribed members of the opposition party to water it down."
That is a serious charge--a crime in fact. You should provide the details that you have to the authorities.
Thank goodness, soon nanny Joe will be termed out of office and with no available political office for him to run for, he will have to return to Palo Alto and get a real job.


Like this comment
Posted by No More BIkes!
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

Wayne is right. Let's "specifically target bicyclists ..."! They get in the way of our motor vehicles, thereby slowing us down.

Sure, bicycling is a healthy way to more that requires very little road or parking space. And yes, bicyclists don't pollute the air either. Admittedly if more people bicycled there would be feweer obese people around.

So what? The important thing is for us to get from A to B as fast as possible. That is what cars do. I'm with Wayne. Get the bicyclists off the road!


Like this comment
Posted by thank you Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

Nanny laws protect idiots from themselves. Traffic safety protects innocent people from reckless drivers.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 9:55 am

No more bikes---The point is that bicyclists are supposed to follow the same laws as motorized vehicle drivers. They do not. The one good thing about this law is that applies to bicyclists as well. this is not about road or parking spaces .
Just recently a bicyclist ran into and killed a pedestrian in SF. Surprisingly this bicyclist has not been arrested the DA is still deciding whether to charge him!!! Had it been an automobile involved he would still be sitting in jail now.
Double standard.

"Nanny laws protect idiots from themselves. "
Well, said Thank you, joe--Joe Simitian qualifies.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2011 at 9:56 am

I actually agree with Wayne on this one: bicyclists should be included in the ban. However, calling them out specifically for all violations is generally not necessary because bicyclists are already subject to all the provisions of Division 11 that are applicable to the drivers of vehicles. In this case the law only applies to the operators of MOTOR vehicles, not all vehicles, so it doesn't automatically apply to bicyclists. Also, if you want the fines to be different then you need to have a section specific to bicyclists. The distinction between vehicles and motor vehicles is extremely important in the law, but is often overlooked (even by police officers and lawyers who should know better).


Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 10:08 am

It is not normal for the party at fault in a fatal accident to be arrested on the spot except in cases of drunk driving, hit and run or other malicious intent. In the SF case the bicyclist stayed at the scene and was not intoxicated.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

Alex--I think the issue here is that the bicyclist ran a red light
Web Link

Two laws were already broken--running of the red light and hitting a pedestrian. Now that the pedestrian has died, I am not sure why the DA is still unsure about filing charges. The bicyclist should have been arrested on the spot--the fact that he is not in jail now, given that the person died shows the double standard.


Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 10:42 am

Okay, Alex, but in the case of the bicyclist, the DA is not even sure he will file charges!!!! In the link you provided the driver was charged and sentenced. Let's stop the double standard for bicyclists. The city needs revenue--ticketing bicyclists for running stop signs, riding on downtown streets, failing to yield to pedestrians should add some cash to our coffers.


Like this comment
Posted by Just the Facts Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 10:59 am

Lets get down to the Facts....
What is more important?
A life (or) a call/text message

I think you will all agree that living is better than a call/text you missed.
So if your still refusing to hang up.... it could be yours or another persons life that gets hung up.
A fine big or small is your reminder to do the right thing.
Enough said!


Like this comment
Posted by clarity please
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:04 am

I remember Sen Joe being quoted as he did not want to be involved in determining the gray area around use of the device such as can you enter and/or look up a number on your phone, that it was up to the arresting officer and court to determine (! poorly writen law methinks), is the following quoted above from the bill in process or current one: "(c) For purposes of this section, a person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call."??
And is there any clarity on whetehr using one's phones speakerphone held in the hand away from the head is in violation? I expect the evidence will accumulate showing that ANY cell use, handsfree or not, is dangerous and will ultimately trump the phone companies lobby, plus they make increasingly more on texting than calls so maybe less concerned about the "right to call".


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

Is there anything you can do while driving that is not dangerous? Maybe the law should just list what is permissible, like breathing.


Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

I agree that scofflaw riders should be ticketed. Cyclists are often cited for breaking traffic laws. Here's an interesting story:

Web Link

Here's an example of a driver who was not arrested at the scene:

Web Link

I'm not sure if she's been charged. Here's a guy who was not charged:

Web Link

Perhaps the SF DA finds the evidence lacking. Perhaps he's a bike nut, biased in favor of cyclists. Or maybe he's just taking his sweet time. I don't know and neither do you.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:19 am

Okay, Alex, once again you are confusing the breaking of the law--which the bicyclist in SF did by running the red light and the above two incidents where there was an accident but the driver did not break the law to cause the accident. I guess in both cases the people could have been charged with reckless driving and I assume the DAs decided there was not sufficient evidence.
The bicyclist broke the law, ran the red light,hit a pedestrian who died. Not sure what the DA is waiting for. Had any of the above drivers run a red light they would have been charged by now.


Like this comment
Posted by College Student
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

-No More Bikes!"-

Your comments about how bikers should be taken off the road are completely uncalled for and, even more importantly, unrelated to the issue at hand. I completely agree that bikers should have to face the same consequences for using a wireless device while operating their vehicles. However, this has nothing to do with whether bikers should be biking or not. If you haven't noticed this is Palo Alto, one of the greatest biking cities this country has. You're comment of "So what? The important thing is for us to get from A to B as fast as possible. That is what cars do. I'm with Wayne. Get the bicyclists off the road!" is just close-minded and selfish. Bikers are doing something great for our environment, something you should try to wrap your thick head around.


Like this comment
Posted by apparently addicted to wasting time
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Could the weekly please add a pull-down menu "sarcastic" or "not sarcastic", or at least "neighborhood" option of "downtown sarcasm" as some people are (understandably) confusing sarcasm for knee-jerk extremism, both of which proliferate on these forums?


Like this comment
Posted by Yes
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Yes to a ban on cell-phones while driving with real teeth in it. It's about time.


Like this comment
Posted by Bicycling Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Correct information is important. It is incorrect to infer that the PAPD doesn't issue citations to cyclists. Palo Alto Police does issue citations to bicyclists for all kinds of violations, including: running stop signs, wrong-way riding, underage cyclists not wearing helmets, and many others. Now that the new texting restrictions are in place, the police will enforce the laws with cyclists and motorists as they are required to do.

Sadly, every scofflaw can't be ticketed every time they break the law. (We don't have enough police to cover every street every moment.)

That said, the number of people killed by cars every year far exceeds those killed by bicycles. That's not to say the SF incident should be excused. It absolutely should not. Vehicle operators are responsible to comply with the vehicle laws, including stopping at red lights and YIELDing to pedestrians. This cyclist should and probably will be prosecuted if the thread is correct and he was legally at fault for the death of a person.

I am a big proponent for all vehicle operators sharing the road safely. Mr. Martin, I have seen you ride your bike. You rarely signal turns, you sometimes wrong-way ride, and you don't consistently stop at STOP signs. Though this next one is not a legal matter, you never wear a helmet. A properly fitted helmet could reduce the chance of injury to your brain in a crash by as much as 88%. I urge you to take a good bike safety class. It's good to see you bicycling--a great way to get exercise and an efficient, and economically/environmentally sustainable way to transport oneself--but I hope you will learn and practice basic bike safety skills more carefully for your own safety, and the safety of others who share the road with you.

If each of us takes individual responsibility for being a safe vehicle operator(regardless of the kind of vehicle we are using), complying with the law, we will all be better off.

Let's take care of each other.




Like this comment
Posted by obey the law
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Obey the law. Turn off your cell phone when you are driving. That kid in the crosswalk that you are about to hit might be your own. How can anyone possibly be in favor of reckless driving?


Like this comment
Posted by Karellen
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

"...the driver did not break the law to cause the accident."

Oh good. So it isn't against the law to fail to operate with due care and run someone over from behind. It's not illegal to drive too fast for conditions either. Why didn't I think of that before.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I don't think this is fair, why penalize people who have no problem knowing when and where it is safe to do "whatever" in a car, and when it is not, and ignore when people are obviously being idiot drivers.

Virtually every time I go out driving now I see someone doing something stupid in a car on the phone, texting, eating, or whatever, and then there are people NOt doing something stupid while they are doing the exact same things.

If the police would stick to ticketing people actually doing something, and then include in the ticket that they were also texting or whatever while driving, it could be additional information to help manage "bad" drivers instead of blanketly including drivers that seem to have no problem with driving.

In other words what about changing the laws to focus on bad driving problems, and then track extenuating circumstances like driving while impaired, or not paying attention, instead of having a myriad of little laws that do not really add value to making the road and driving a safer experience.

Also ... for a while I read about the police stopping people and giving them citations for good driving. I'll bet it did not work very well and was not particularly well received by anyone, but is there any record of article about the experiences, lessons and results of that test?

In my opinion some people drive so aggressively these days that they force others to have to be practically super-human to drive their cars ... which means for some who cannot allocated their attention accidents are going to happen ... but they are just as much caused by a driving experience that is too stressful in general.


Like this comment
Posted by enough
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

No more accidents,too many already,stop it.


Like this comment
Posted by No More Bikes!
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

If bicycling and walking were banned, there would be fewer people hit and killed by cars. And we would also be able to drive faster without all those people on bikes or walking across the street being in our way.

Let's support Wayne in going back to the way it ways in the days in the early 1960s when nobody in his right mind bicycled or walked. Driving is more convenient!

While we're at it, let's ban whole grain products, shut down the health clubs, and stop taxing cigarettes too! White bread, cirgarettes, cars, and sitting around a lot complaining helped build America!!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm

>> Turn off your cell phone when you are driving.
>> How can anyone possibly be in favor of reckless driving?

It really does not follow that any and every one who is using their cellphone while driving is driving recklessly.

I recently got a so-called smart phone - the iPhone - and though I really like it, I have to say very loudly and clearly that I feel I am less able to give attention to driving when I am using my iPhone that when I had a simple dial cellphone and held it to my ear or on speakerphone in front of me.

Anyone can make mistakes, that is why they are called accidents, but these kind of mistakes are errors or judgement and ability to do "anything", no just because someone is using a cellphone, or whatever.

I do agree that texting is foolish, but so is - or can be - eating, drinking, smoking, talking, daydreaming, scratching your "whatever".

A cellphone or texting law does not really attack the problem, but this lazy and stupid kind of legislation gives lots of work to lawyers and judges who now can pass all kinds of foolish laws about all kind of things that MIGHT lead to accidents.

There should be some kind of metric, some kind of objective measurement about a laws proposed effectiveness at solving some problem, and then over time that law should be evaluated as to its effectiveness in controlling whatever problem it was created to fix.

The more convoluted and confused the laws get, the more value it has to have an expensive lawyer find loopholes in the prosecution of that law, and the more it will discriminate against those who do not have that money - in short - unless laws are well thought-out they have unintended consequences that often include coming down harder on whatever "class" of person ... something that is in vogue these days at least as far as taxes.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

"Oh good. So it isn't against the law to fail to operate with due care and run someone over from behind. "

Karellen--in these cases it is up to the DAs to decide whether to press charges or not. As I stated, and you ignored, they could have been charged with reckless driving.

"Why didn't I think of that before."
You did not think before you posted your last comment.


Like this comment
Posted by Karellen
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm

They could have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, not reckless driving. To prosecute, the DA has to be able to prove that the defendant violated some part of the vehicle code, whether it's running a stop light or traveling too fast for conditions. As you said, it's up to him, and if he doesn't think he has enough proof that the cyclist ran the light he won't file charges. I think you should wait for his decision before claiming that a double standard is in play.

It seems that you want the authorities to deviate form normal practice by arresting and jailing the cyclist on the spot and pressing charges right away whether or not there is a solid case against him. Maybe there is a double standard after all.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Karellen--Go back and read the links that Alex posted. I was referring to them when I made the comment ("...the driver did not break the law to cause the accident.") that you responded to. If you read those stories you will see that the cases have been dealt with.

As for the SF cyclist story, you are clearly not familiar with that issue either:
Web Link
"Police said Cherney was walking in the crosswalk around 8:30 am that day when the bicyclist, identified only as a Bay Area man, ran a red light and struck her."
It is pretty clear that the cyclist ran the red light. Had a car run the red light, I am sure the driver would have been arrested or at a minimum cited. In this case, the cyclist is free and the DA is afraid of upsetting the biking coalition in SF.

"It seems that you want the authorities to deviate form normal practice by arresting and jailing the cyclist on the spot and pressing charges right away whether or not there is a solid case against him. "
Not sure what part of running a red light you think is okay under the law. Not asking the police to deviate from anything--just for them to not employ a double standard


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

The same laws and fee's should apply to bicycle riders who break driving laws period. I have seen plenty of bicycle riders either talking on their cell phone and or texting while riding.
If a bicycle rider can get a DUI by the police then the same no texting laws should apply to them.
If you have ever spoken with somebody who has hit a bicycle rider with their car, (even if the vehicle driver was found to not be at fault)it doesnt change the impact it has on the driver of the vehicle. Those sights, sounds and memories stick with them for years.
A bicycle rider texting while riding is then riding is doing so with at least one hand off the handle bars, add to that not looking at road and or cars. There are lost of things on the roadway that will cause a one handed bicycle rider to lose control and or crash. Let alone trying to stay in the bicycle lane.
Anything with wheels operated by a person on a public roadway should be subject to the same laws, period.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

It is all about saving lives!!! Got it?
Now stop complaining.


Like this comment
Posted by karellen
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I didn't write that running lights is okay, that was you putting words in my mouth which is rude and logically fallacious. Nor did I write that the cyclist is innocent, or that he should not be charged. The point was that you shouldn't be accusing the DA of favoritism prematurely. You don't know why he hasn't made his decision yet. He may well be building a case as we speak.


Like this comment
Posted by Please don't text while driving
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Texting while driving (any vehicle--bike, car, or skateboard) is more dangerous than driving drunk. Please don't do it--for your safety and the safety of others. See this link for more information Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 17, 2011 at 6:50 am

Karellen:
"I didn't write that running lights is okay, that was you putting words in my mouth which is rude and logically fallacious. "

You need to go back and read both of our postings carefully.
You previously stated:
""It seems that you want the authorities to deviate form normal practice by arresting and jailing the cyclist on the spot and pressing charges right away whether or not there is a solid case against him. ""

and I responded with:
"Not sure what part of running a red light you think is okay under the law. Not asking the police to deviate from anything--just for them to not employ a double standard"

I am not putting words in your mouth--you had stated that the authorities should not deviate from normal practice by pressing charges right away, My point about asking you about what part of running a red light you think is okay , was to point out the there was ample reason to press charges against him for running the red light alone.

My point about favoritism stands--had it been a car driver he would have been arrested and charged by now. The bicyclist at the time should have been charged with running a red light, reckless driving and assault. Now that charge should be upgraded to manslaughter.
The ball is in the DAs court--will he kowtow to the bicycle coalition and let the perp walk or will he do the right thing.


Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Web Link

"Witnesses said the SUV ran a red light."

"The SUV driver was not arrested or cited."


Like this comment
Posted by yes
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm

yes,witnesses got a good view of what was happening or not happening.


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

What is your point, Alex?? That vehicles run red lights, injure and kill people and are not cited or arrested? That is an excuse for the SF cyclist to not be arrested, because it happens in other cities?
Bottom line, if people are so concerned about vehicles running traffic lights, then when it happens the drivers/cyclists should be cited. The law is the law and this is a clear example of the law being broken.
Not right in Tacoma, Castro VAlley, Whittier or anywhere else.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Perhaps "not right" but nevertheless it is common practice, and I don't see any double-standard being applied here. If a driver is drunk they are usually hauled off to jail immediately, otherwise they are often released and cited later when the cops and the DA have investigated enough to make sure that the proper charges and citations are being issued.


Like this comment
Posted by thank you Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2011 at 7:57 am

This is why we need tougher distracted driving laws and enforcement. Existing laws are totally inadequate. 21-year-old texting driver kills 80-year-old pedestrian: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by nanny Joe legislation
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

The problem is actually talking on the phone--

Web Link
"Driving while using a handsfree cellular device is not safer than using a hand held cell phone, as concluded by case-crossover studies.[19][20] epidemiological,[1][2] simulation,[9] and meta-analysis[11][12]."

So all of Nanny Joe's legislation is a joke. Talking on cell phones, changing radio stations, eating, putting on make up should be banned.
Joe Simitian is a politician--he think she is giving people what they want. In actuality he is just trying to prolong his political career which will soon be coming to an end. Bye, bye , Nanny Joe.


Like this comment
Posted by Distracted drivers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Children and incompetents need a nanny.
Distracted drivers become incompetent. Like children who run out into the street, they forget they are propelling a dangerous vehicle.
Thank you Joe Simitian for doing your best to save lives.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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