New California Law Bans Texting While Driving

While he did not sign the bill at the 96th Annual National Safety Congress & Expo in Anaheim, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the big conference's expo a fitting sendoff Wednesday when he signed SB 28 into law. The bill prohibits drivers from using text messaging devices while driving a motor vehicle.

"Building on legislation already helping save lives in California, I am happy to sign this bill because it further encourages safe and responsible driving," said Schwarzenegger. "Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers' hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians."

The bill -- SB 28, sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat -- says drivers may not write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving a motor vehicle. It sets a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense, but the offending driver is not assessed a point for licensing purposes. The new law defines "write, send, or read a text-based communication" as meaning "using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail." But it does not include reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number or name in an electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call, the law states. Emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the course and scope of their duties are exempt.

The existing law to which Schwarzenegger referred was signed in 2006; sponsored by Simitian, it requires motorists to use hands-free devices while talking on mobile phones while driving a motor vehicle.

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