Dialing drivers might also see new ticket fees

Along with expanding the state’s existing motorist cellphone ban to bicyclists, new legislation proposed by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, also would make it much costlier for motorists who get caught chatting while driving.

Simitian’s bill would increase the base fine from $20 to $30 for the first offense, and from $50 to $60 for the second offense of talking on the phone while driving. Motorists have been banned from using their cellphones since July 2008, although they are still allowed to call using hands-free devices.

Because of various multiplier fees at the local level, the total cost of the first offense would actually rise from an average $159 to $199, and the second offense would go up from $279 to $371, Simitian said. The second offense would also add a point on a person’s driver’s license.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Simitian’s proposed legislation that would have increased the base fine from $20 to $50, citing the burdensome costs to motorists. While he has since had some conversations with the Governor’s Office about his latest bill, Simitian said he would have a better idea of its chance of success later this year.

A recent study by UC Berkeley researchers found that driving deaths blamed on handheld cellphones were down 47 percent since his law took effect, but Simitian said compliance among motorists is still too low.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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