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Fines for Illegal Cellphone Use While Driving Could Double, Plus Bicyclists Will Find Themselves On the Hook Too

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Photo by YanLev via Shutterstock
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A warning to all those for whom the temptation to let their fingers do the talking while driving is impossible to resist: If Governor Jerry Brown signs SB 28 into law, failing to go hands free while you're at the wheel could soon cost you more than twice as much in fines. Bonus: The bill extends the ban on illegal cellphone use while you're in charge of two wheels. Yep, bicyclists would be subject to citation and fines, too.

Authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-11th District/Palo Alto), SB 28 was passed by the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 23 to 13.

The bill will make law the following:

•Increase the fine for a first hands-free or texting offense to $50, and to $100 for a subsequent offenses.
•Provide that repeat violations of the hands-free law will add a “point” on motorists’ driving records,
•Use a portion of the increased fine revenue to provide for a public awareness program; and
•Apply the hands-free/no texting law to bicyclists. Cyclists would pay $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense, would not be subject to additional ticket fees/penalties, and would not receive a point on their driving record for violations.
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The bill is supported by the California Bicycle Coalition. They explain their endorsement as follows:

Just as we supported the existing cell phone and texting bans, we support tougher penalties as a way to help discourage this form of distracted driving and thus provide greater protection to bicyclists and other road users who are particularly vulnerable to distracted drivers. Extending the existing bans to bicyclists is appropriate given the growing body of research that demonstrates a significant level of cognitive impairment for anyone using a cell phone. Minimal fines for bicyclists are consistent with the minimal evidence of harm to others caused by bicyclists who use cell phones while riding.