Hands-free cell phone bill advances in California

| 3/5/2003

The California Assembly Transportation Committee has voted in favor of a bill that would require anyone who uses a cell phone while driving to have a hands-free device.

The panel voted 14-5 in favor of AB45, which was introduced by California Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.

The bill would set the fines for not having one of the devices at $20 for the first offense and $50 for every subsequent offense. Like many other cell phone proposals across the country, it makes an exception for people using the phones to make an emergency call.

According to a report by The Los Angeles Times March 4, wireless companies that opposed the bill had asked for a more general measure banning “inattentive driving,” which would include not only cell phones, but also distractions from pets, children, radios, food or conversation.

A recent study by the California Highway Patrol of more than 491,000 accidents indicated 5,600 were caused by distracted drivers. Of those, more than 600 were the result of cell phone use.

AB45’s next stop in the legislative process is the Assembly Appropriations Committee.