California Senate acts to ban text messaging for all drivers

| 7/23/2008

In California, a bill that would prohibit adults from text messaging while driving is halfway through the statehouse.

The Senate voted 39-31 to approve a bill that was amended to add a provision that would ban so-called “texting” while at the wheel. Sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the measure – SB28 – now moves back to the Assembly for consideration of changes.

Pursuit of legislation to limit driver distractions is nothing new for Simitian. He authored the state’s hand-held cell phone restriction that took effect July 1.

Another law that took effect the first of the month makes it illegal for teens younger than 18 to use any type of cell phone, pager, text messaging device or laptop while at the wheel.

Simitian’s latest effort would remove the loophole that allows adults to use hand-held devices to send, receive or read text messages while driving. If approved, it would take effect Jan. 1.

As is the case for violating the new cell phone law, police would be allowed to pull over adults found texting. Violators would face at least $20 fines. Subsequent offenses would result in up to $50 fines.

Efforts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices, such as a Blackberry-type device, while driving have picked up steam across the country following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. Nearly three-quarters of drivers use cell phones.

California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that ban all drivers from using hand-held phones. The New Jersey and Washington state laws also prohibit text messaging. Minnesota recently approved its own ban on text messaging.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor