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Higher fines proposed for using cell phones while driving

The California legislature will soon consider a bill to increase fines for using cell phones while driving a vehicle. According to the June 4 edition of the Sacramento Bee, California State Senator Joe Simitian has proposed increasing the fines associated with cell phones and driving. The current law provides a fine of $20 for the first offense, and $50 to $100 for subsequent offenses. Another interesting aspect of Simitian's bill would allow law enforcement to pull over a teen motorist for any suspected use of wireless devices, not just if if they're visibly holding a phone or texting. California's law making the use of cell phones while driving an infraction commenced in 2008.

The proposed legislation would add an additional wrinkle-Bicyclists would face fines for gripping hand held cells while pedaling.

The new legislation was proposed by Senator Simitian due to his concern that motorists continue to text and talk on their cell phones despite the laws prohibiting this. Fatal accidents involving the use of cell phones have reportedly not diminished since the law took effect in 2008. Since 2007, at least three California drivers have been sentenced to prison on vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from hitting people and using wireless devices. Surveys conducted by the Auto Club indicate that after an initial drop in using wireless devices behind the wheel after the law first past, drivers are reverting to old habits. The reported use of wireless devices while driving is close to the levels prior to the enactment of the 2008 law.

Study after study has demonstrated the perils of driving while texting or talking on a cell phone. Numerous fatal and serious accidents result from this practice. Although it remains to be seen if increasing penalties will have any impact in reducing this practice, it is a worthwhile effort to improve the safety of our roads.

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