The California State Assembly is currently considering a controversial
bill to tighten the rules regarding cell phone use while driving.
VC 23123 prohibits using cell phones in most circumstances, unless the device is
a hands-free device specifically configured for driving. There is some
evidence that hands-free devices are even worse than hand-held devices,
but that point is not addressed in the proposed amendment, which was introduced
by Assemblymen Jim Frazier (D-Solano) this past February. However,
AB 1646 would make it illegal for a police officer to initiate a stop for no reason
other than a suspected cell phone violation. But, the bill also roughly
doubles the total bail for cell phone tickets, to $285 for a first offense
and $490 for a second offense. In addition, a second offense would be
a one-point violation in Kern County, one of the only non-moving violations
that counts as a point against your drivers' license.
The restriction on police power is laudable, but the money-grab is truly
lamentable. Like the speeding laws, AB 1646 is basically a revenue-generation
device. The governor has already warned legislators not to take things
too far and effectively turn traffic tickets into highway user fees, but
the legislature may not be listening. This bill would be a major burden
to drivers, who are already hard-pressed to pay a speeding ticket fine.
Now, they must come up with an additional $500 in some cases. The high
cost of the ticket will also further crowd the courts with defendants
fighting the ticket to avoid high insurance rates and fines.