California Gov. Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have made drivers pay a higher price for texting behind the wheel. In August, the state's legislature passed Senate Bill 28, which would have more than doubled the fines for those caught texting while driving. Brown vetoed the bill in September.
California law already bans the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and texting fines already are in place. S.B. 28 would have taken things up a notch by increasing the fine for the first texting offense from $20 to $50 and the fine for subsequent offenses from $50 to $100, according to state Sen. Joe Simitian, the bill's author. Penalties and fees could have pushed the amount up to more than $300, depending on the county where the infraction occurred.
In a statement on his website, Simitian pointed to research by AAA and the state's Office of Traffic Safety showing that California's existing hands-free driving law has a 60 percent to 70 percent compliance rate. That suggests, according to Simitian, that financial consequences deter distracted driving -- and that the more expensive consequences proposed in S.B. 28 would have deterred it even more.
In addition to fines, the bill also called for distracted driver education programs. S.B. 28 also included bicyclists, who are left out of the current law. They would have been charged a $20 fine for the first texting offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.
Had it passed, S.B. 28 would have been just one of many state distracted driving laws passed in recent years. According to IIHS, 34 states and the District of Columbia ban texting for all drivers. Fines vary. New York, for example, has fines of up to $150 per infraction, according to the state's website. Louisiana, meanwhile, issues fines of $175 for the first offense and fines of up to $500 for later offenses, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Although these tougher rules across the country are aimed at preventing crashes and fatalities, some research shows that they may not be as effective as hoped. According to numbers from IIHS's Highway Loss Data Institute, crash rates actually increased slightly in states that enacted texting bans, and a survey of drivers revealed that many continued to text despite their state's laws.
Yet even though drivers may not be changing their behavior, texting behind the wheel is dangerous, according to NHTSA. Texting requires drivers to simultaneously take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel, and driving while using a cellphone can delay drivers' reactions as much as driving while drunk can.