Skip to content

August 27, 2007
For More Information, Contact:
Paige Schoknecht at (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that the State Assembly passed SB 33, his bill to prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone, pager, text-messaging device, or laptop while driving, on an initial vote of 62-5.  The bill, which passed the State Senate in April, now goes to the State Senate for a final vote on Assembly amendments, then on to the Governor who has 30 days to sign or veto the bill.

“I introduced this bill for one simple reason - it will save lives,” said Simitian.  “Year after year, car crashes are the number one cause of death among teenagers.  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.”

Simitian said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the bill’s chances with the Governor.  “The evidence is overwhelming, and the bill has attracted broad-based bipartisan support,” said Simitian.  Simitian also noted that, “When the Governor signed the hands-free cell phone bill last year he cited his own experience with his teenage daughter, who he has prohibited from driving while using a cell phone.”

SB 33, which would go into effect on July 1, 2008, prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones or any mobile service devices (walkie-talkies, pagers, two-way messaging devices, PDAs, and laptops) while driving, even with a hands-free device.  Violators would be assessed a $20 fine for the first offense, and a $50 fine for subsequent offenses, with no violation point on the violator’s driving record.

According to a 2001 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16 year-old drivers have a crash rate five times greater than 18 year-olds and almost ten times greater than drivers ages 30-59. 

Additionally, according to Ford Motor Company research, teen drivers are four times more distracted than adult drivers when using a cell phone while driving.

“We know that driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes, and that cell phone use is the most common distraction,” Simitian noted.  “And most alarmingly, teen-aged drivers are four times more distracted than adult drivers when using a cell phone.”

While investigating a recent fatal auto accident involving with five teenage passengers, authorities in New York found that text messages had been sent and received by the driver less than two minutes before the accident occurred.

“Asking young drivers to wait until the age of 18 before they pick up that cell phone is a modest imposition that will save lives.  That’s why the National Transportation Safety Board recently put a cell phone ban for young drivers on their Most Wanted list of Safety Recommendations to States,” Simitian added.

Assemblymember Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) is Simitian’s Principal Co-Author on the bill.  “As a mother of two teenagers,” said Garcia, “I know first-hand about how technology has given kids more ways to stay connected to their friends.  Over 6 million kids have cell phones capable of receiving calls, text messages, taking pictures or surfing the web.  There is a time and a place for using these devices and it is not behind the wheel of a car.”

SB 33, which passed the State Senate in April on a 21-15 vote, is similar to laws already on the books in 13 states and the District of Columbia.  Similar legislation is pending in 16 other states.

Simitian is also the author of last year’s SB 1613, which was signed by the Governor last fall and requires all California drivers using their cell phones to use a hands-free device.  SB 1613 will go into effect on July 1, 2008, the same date as SB 33 if it should be signed into law.

For more information on SB 33, visit