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New California Law Banning Texting While Driving Takes Effect Jan. 1

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California will become the sixth state in the nation to ban texting while driving. The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Motorists caught texting and driving at the same time could start facing fines of up to $100. This ban came after a couple of bills took effect in July 1. One allows adult motorists to use only hands-free devices while driving. The other prohibits drivers under 18 from using cell phones in any way while driving. This new law drives home the point and makes it clear that it is not OK for adult drivers to be texting while driving. Our source for this blog was this Associated Press news report.

According to statistics from the California Highway Patrol, cell phone use was a factor in 61 deaths and 3,489 injuries on California’s roads and highways from 2002 to 2007.
Under the new law, texting while driving could result in a $20 fine for a first offense and a $50 fine for subsequent violations. But the total expenses for the violator can add up because a number of fees could be tacked on to those penalties.

In my opinion, this was a law that was a long time coming. It makes sense to clarify that motorists cannot text while driving because the earlier law that became effective on July 1, 2008 did not make that clear and left a loophole. This law will save a number of lives. We don’t have to look far to see the tragic effects of texting and driving.

In Huntington Beach, 14-year-old Danny Oates was killed last year after he was hit by a man who was texting and driving. In the case of Danny, there was also an issue of a dangerous roadway. But texting was one of the factors in that tragedy. Our firm is representing Danny’s parents who are trying to get the city to fix that dangerous intersection where Danny was killed. There was the tragic Chatsworth Metrolink crash in September, which killed 25 people and injured more than 135. In that accident, the train’s engineer was said to be texting moments before the catastrophic crash.

I hope that 2009 will be a year that improves traffic safety and a year where we will see a reduction in auto accidents. This new law will hopefully help make our streets and freeways a lot safer for all Californians.

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  • Terry O’Riain

    In Australia you can lose your license for using a phone while driving. The road authorities have been very successful in reducing road deaths by 70% by a combination of seatbelt, random breath testing & speeding laws and gEneral road safety education. Some of it is a major inconvenience but mostly an enlightened restriction of civil liberties.

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