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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    
May 14, 2012

For More Information, Contact:
Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Phil Yost (650) 688-6834 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – Today, the California State Senate passed Senate Bill 1310, a bill by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) which would strengthen California’s hands-free and no texting laws for motorists. The vote was 24-9.

Senate Bill 1310 increases the base fines for violating the hands-free cell phone and no texting while driving laws from $20 to $30 for a first offense, and from $50 to $60 for a subsequent offense. The increased fine revenue would be used to establish and fund a distracted driving education program in the California Office of Traffic Safety.

With penalties and fees, the total cost of a first offense would rise from roughly $159 to approximately $199 (costs vary by county). The total cost of a second offense would rise from roughly $279 to approximately $371.

In addition, a subsequent or second violation of the law would add a “point” on a motorist’s driving record, serving as an added deterrent.

“Research has shown that our distracted driving laws are changing behavior and saving lives,” Simitian said. “Yet we know there are still far too many drivers texting and talking on hand-held cell phones. This bill would toughen penalties, add the deterrent of a point on a driving record, and help fund a program to spread the word that no text or phone call is worth the cost of a life.”

SB 1310 also extends distracted driving laws to bicyclists, but at a lower total fine level of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense, with no added fees. Bicyclists would also not receive a point on their driver’s licenses for a subsequent violation. SB 1310 is supported by the California Bicycle Coalition.

In March, the California Office of Traffic Safety released a study showing that deaths due to hand-held cell phone use by drivers dropped dramatically following the 2008 enactment of SB 1613, Simitian’s hands-free legislation. The analysis 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 deaths specifically attributed to driver hand-held cell phone use went down 47 percent.

California Highway Patrol data from the first year of the hands-free law’s implementation showed a 20 percent reduction in fatalities and collisions in California compared to the annual average over the previous three to five years.

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.

Last year, Governor Brown vetoed a bill similar to SB 1310, but with a higher fine. Simitian added, “I’ve been in discussions with the Governor’s office and hope to find common ground with the Governor this year.”