The texting ban is one in a series of traffic safety laws written by Democratic Senator Joe Simitian. Two have already gone into effect – one banning hand-held cell phone use while driving. And another that prevents drivers under 18 from using any kind of cell phone – or texting. But there was still a loophole. There was no such texting law for drivers 18 and older:
“This was a little piece of unfinished business. Small, but important in my view.”
Simitian says it’s common sense – but needs to be on the books:
“Driving while texting, or DWT as it’s sometimes known, is so obviously unsafe that it’s hard to believe anybody does it. But our everyday observation and the data from around the country suggest otherwise. We’ve probably got somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of California drivers who are driving while texting.”
The California Highway Patrol says those drivers won’t get a grace period. The base fine is 20 dollars for your first offense, and 50 dollars after that. But once court fees are tacked on, it can add up to a lot more. Jaime Coffee is with the CHP. She says texting while driving is a primary offense:
“So if an officer observes you texting away or reading your text message while you’re driving your vehicle, or operating your vehicle –even if you’re at a stop sign, they can pull you over and cite you for this.
Coffee says the C-H-P is serious about the new law – just as they have been about the law banning driving while using a hand-held cell phone. She says from July to mid-December of 2008, C-H-P officers wrote more than 45-thousand tickets for drivers using cell phones statewide. Other new driving laws taking effect in 2009 crack down on repeat drunk-drivers. Two aim to increase the use of so-called ignition interlock devices. Those are installed in a vehicle and require the driver to breathe into them to test the blood alcohol level before the engine will start. There’s also one that allows drivers to mount navigational devices – known as G-P-S – on certain parts of their windshields. Previously, that was illegal.