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March 5, 2012

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Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – A study released today by the California Office of Traffic Safety shows that deaths due to hand-held cell phone use by drivers dropped dramatically following the enactment of the hands-free legislation authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

The analysis, conducted by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley, examined state crash records two years before and two years after Simitian’s hands-free legislation took effect, and found that overall traffic deaths declined by 22 percent, while hand-held cell phone driver deaths went down 47 percent. Simitian’s Senate Bill 1613, which was signed into law in 2006 but took effect in July 2008, made it illegal for California drivers to talk on a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device. For more on the study, go to

Today’s study confirms California Highway Patrol data from the first year of the hands-free law’s implementation, which showed a 20 percent reduction in fatalities and collisions in California compared to the annual average over the previous three to five years. “That’s 700 fewer fatalities and 75,000 to 100,000 fewer collisions each year,” said Simitian, noting that the year-to-year drop in collisions was the largest in State history.

“It’s clear that most California drivers ‘get it.’ They understand just how dangerous distracted driving is, and most are doing their part to make the highway safer,” said Simitian. “But we also know that there are still too many drivers texting and talking on hand-held cell phones. For drivers who still haven’t gotten the message, studies like this help underscore the fact that no phone call or text is worth the cost of a life.”

Simitian is also the author of SB 33, which prohibits 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; and SB 28, which makes it illegal for California drivers to send, read, or write text messages while driving.

Simitian just introduced SB 1310, a bill which seeks to strengthen California’s distracted driving laws by increasing fines for motorists who use cell phones without a hands-free device or who text while driving. Governor Brown vetoed a similar Simitian bill last year, but Simitian says he “hopes to find common ground with the Governor this year.”