California cell phone bill headed
for Schwarzenegger signature
By Erica Holt, Bay City News Service
September 1, 2006
A bill that would charge a fine to California drivers who hold
a cell phone up to their ears while driving cleared the Legislature
Thursday and is headed for the governor's desk, state Sen. Joe
Simitian's office reports.
Simitian, D-Palo Alto, sponsored Senate Bill 1613, which would
impose a fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent
offenses on motorists who chat on cell phones unless they use
a hands-free device, in an attempt to reduce driver distraction
and cell phone-related accidents.
The bill passed the Senate a second time Thursday on a 21-15
vote with amendments from the Assembly, which passed the bill
Monday, Simitian's office reports. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
now has 30 days to sign the legislation for it to become law on
July 1, 2008.
The legislation cites several studies indicating that drivers
can "lose substantial cognitive awareness with the situation
on the road when they are concentrating on a cell phone conversation.
This is true whether or not the motorist is holding the phone
up to his or her ear or is using a hands-free system,'' the Senate
Bill analysis reads.
Exemptions to the hands-free phone requirement include motorists
making emergency calls, according to the legislation, and commercial,
agricultural and tow truck drivers, who would be allowed to use
push-to-talk two-way phones.
A violation would not constitute a point on one's driving record.
New York was the first state to pass a law banning cell phone
use while driving in 2001 and New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington
D.C. have similar laws.
Sprint Nextel has registered the sole opposition to the bill,
which has a long list of supporters, including firefighters, police,
cities and health organizations, according to the legislation.
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