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California Could Get Tougher Penalties For Handling Phones While Driving Under New Bill

AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

A driver uses her mobile phone while sitting in traffic Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.

AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

California drivers who talk, text or in any way operate a hand-held device would be charged with a moving violation under a bill proposed at the state Capitol this week.

Operating a hand-held phone is already an infraction punishable by a $20 fine under a law that went into effect in 2017. But under Senate Bill 1030, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman of Orange County, the penalty would increase, potentially hiking insurance rates for violators.

“Because of the clear and present danger it poses to other motorists, we need to be penalizing — and deterring — distracted driving as much as we do driving under the influence or any other dangerous driving behavior,” Newman said in a press release.

Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California, said his organization supports any measure that helps cut down on driving fatalities.

“Texting while driving, for instance, will increase the odds of a crash by two to eight times,” Blasky said. “We know that talking while driving on mobile devices, even when they’re hands-free, makes an accident four times as likely.”

The proposed law would keep in place the same $20 fine, which increases to $50 after the first violation. But it would potentially add a point to a driver’s record which could increase insurance rates.

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