California governor vetoes, signs road safety efforts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, October 05, 2012

An effort to further discourage California motorists from texting while at the wheel was thwarted by the governor, again. Two more safety-related efforts are signed into law.

The National Safety Council reports that driver distractions, as well as alcohol and speeding, are leading factors in serious injury crashes. The council estimates that 28 percent of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes – each year are caused by drivers using cellphones. An additional 200,000 crashes annually involve drivers who are texting.

California law already bars drivers from texting or talking on hand-held phones.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that sought to increase the deterrent to engaging in distracted driving practices. It is the second time in as many years that Brown wielded his veto pen on an effort to increase fine amounts.

This year’s version – SB1310 – called for raising fines from $20 to $30. The amount equated to about $200 after court costs – up from $160.

Repeat offenders would have faced $60 fines – up from $50. With fees added the fine would have topped out at about $370 – up from $280.

“The current fines are not trivial but do in fact get drivers’ attention,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “Upping the fines may satisfy the punitive instincts of some, but I severely doubt that it will further reduce violations.”

The state’s youngest drivers would also have come under increased scrutiny. Drivers under 18 now are forbidden to use any type of cellphone, pager, text messaging device or laptop while at the wheel.

Violations are a secondary offense. However, the bill sought to authorize primary enforcement. In addition, repeat offenses would have been considered moving violations that would result in one point being added to offenders’ licenses.

The governor, however, did sign two other bills of note. AB2489 boosts the fine for drivers who alter, or cover, their license plates to avoid tickets for red-light camera violations.

Offenders will soon face fines of as much as $250 – up from $25.

Dubbed the “Young Dreamers” rule, another new law authorizes driver’s licenses for young illegal immigrants granted temporary work permits by the federal government.

AB2189 enables an estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants who are under the age of 30 to take advantage of the program.

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

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