Drivers Using Hand Held Cell Phones May Face Increased Penalties
May 11, 2011
At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, we handle numerous catastrophic injury cases caused by someone driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery while talking on their cell phone or sending text messages. One of the worst accidents involving text messaging was the Chatsworth Metrolink Disaster that occurred on September 12, 2008. In that accident, a Metrolink engineer driving a passenger train ran a red signal while using his personal cell phone to send text messages just 22 seconds before his train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train. The collision resulted in 25 deaths and more than 150 injuries.
The California Legislature is currently looking to increase penalties for offenders driving while using hand held cell phones. On April 25, 2011 the California Senate voted to pass a bill authored by state Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) which increases base line penalties for first time and subsequent offenders. Under the changes imposed by this bill, a first offense penalty could amount to $309 (depending on the city issuing the citation). A second offense could total as much as $509 and will add a point to the driver’s record. Passage of the bill marks a significant increase from the previous $300 maximum penalty. In addition, the bill would also extend the hand held cell phone ban to bicyclists (with $20 and $50 penalties, respectively). These stiffer penalties will now go to the Assembly for approval.
The bill outlined above hopes to send a clear message to the driving public to encourage safe and responsible driving. Given the devastating repercussions faced by they victims and their loved ones from accidents caused by vehicle operators using hand held cell phones, these stiffer penalties should come as no surprise. Please take note and help get the word out.
|Michael A. Penn, Esq.|