Jan 3, 2023
The dangers of texting while driving should be well known to everyone by now. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed 3,142 deaths in 2019 as a result of distracted driving. That same year, a survey conducted by Simply Insurance indicated some troubling statistics regarding texting while driving. 1,430 U.S. drivers participated in the survey, leading to the following conclusions:
Given the inherent dangers of distracted driving, almost all drivers support implementing state laws that would ban the behavior. In fact, a NHTSA survey found that 92% of drivers say they are in favor of laws banning texting or emailing while driving.
But are fines for texting and driving commensurate with the danger the act poses to not only the individual offender but others sharing the road? Below we will take a look at how fines for texting and driving compare to other offenses – namely littering. We’ll also review how to file a personal injury lawsuit if you are ever involved in a distracted or texting while driving car accident.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) confirms that the minimum fine for texting and driving is $162. That’s for a first offense, and the law stipulates that the fine will increase with every subsequent violation (though exact amounts are not specified).
In addition, the CHP notes that California has primary laws prohibiting ALL drivers from texting or using a handheld cell phone while driving unless it is a “hands-free device.” The only instance where the law allows a driver to use a cell phone while behind the wheel is for an emergency call to law enforcement, a medical provider, the fire department, or another emergency service/first responder agency.
Furthermore, for a cell phone to be considered a hands-free device in California, it must be mounted in a specific way within the vehicle:
Texting and driving penalties can be assessed even when a driver is at a stoplight or stop sign. California law stipulates that drivers cannot program cell phones (meaning text, email, change a function, etc.) while at stop signs or stoplights.
Instead, in order to be in compliance with the law, you must pull over to a safe space and come to a complete stop. However, this rule does not apply to teenagers, as California drivers under 18 are prohibited from using any cell phone – hands-free or not – while behind the wheel.
The base fine for distracted driving in California used to be $20 for a first-time offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Those fines were implemented under California State Assembly Bill 1785 (AB 1785), which was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2016.
California Assembly Bill 47 (AB 47), which was signed in 2019 and took effect in 2021, increased those fines and provided law enforcement with the ability to impose additional penalties against distracted drivers.
As of July 1, 2021, the fine for any type of distracted driving – including texting – increased to a minimum of $162 for a first-time offense. But AB 47 also stipulates that a repeat electronic device infraction occurring within 36 months of the last infraction is now subject to a violation point against a driver’s record. In other words, if you received a texting and driving citation within the last 36 months, the California DMV will assess a point on your driving record for a next-time offense. And additional points on your driving record can mean an increase in your car insurance premiums.
Believe it or not, the fine for littering in California is actually higher than for texting and driving. Under California Penal Code 25 – 680.4, any person, firm, or corporation convicted of a littering violation shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 (and not more than $1,000) for a first-time offense. The law goes on to increase those littering fines to:
And California isn’t the only state to have higher fines for littering than for texting and driving. A Daily Kos article from 2017 noted that 35 states have higher fines for littering than for texting while behind the wheel.
But would increasing fines for texting and driving make our roads and highways safer?
A 1969 study from Cornell University – Driving Behavior and Legal Sanctions: A Study of Deterrence – found that increased traffic fines are in fact a solid deterrence. As the Daily Kos article reported, the Cornell study confirmed that increased traffic citations can be effective because they actually make drivers “apprehensive of officers, court appearances, and license suspensions.”
But despite those findings from more than five decades ago, texting and driving fines are actually lower than a number of common and minor infractions.
For example, the minimum fine for jaywalking in California is $198. In October, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 1238 (AB 1238), which, according to a Los Angeles Times report, aimed to allow “people to cross the street outside of crosswalks when cars were not present without facing the possibility of a pricey jaywalking ticket.”
“I am concerned that AB 1238 will unintentionally reduce pedestrian safety and potentially increase fatalities or serious injuries caused by pedestrians that enter our roadways at inappropriate locations,” Newsom wrote in a veto message. “I am committed to working with the author, the Legislature, and stakeholders on legislation that addresses the unequal enforcement of jaywalking laws in a manner that does not risk worsening California’s pedestrian safety.”
California AB 1238 was proposed by Assemblyman Phil Tang, who argued that such a high fine for jaywalking was akin to a “disincentive to walk.”
Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.
Drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and even bicyclists who are injured by another driver’s negligence or carelessness may be eligible to recover financial compensation for numerous damages through a civil lawsuit. Being injured by a distracted driver can leave you with mounting medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even emotional trauma.
Accordingly, the experienced and proven car accident lawyers at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) are available 24/7 for free consultations or to answer any questions you may have about filing a distracted driving claim. By filing a distracted driving civil lawsuit, injured victims may be able to recover a number of compensatory damages, such as:
To speak with a dedicated member of the DLG Car Accident Division team, contact us today at 818-322-4056. There is never any fee until we secure maximum financial compensation for your distracted driving injury claim.
With a 98% success record and over $100 million successfully recovered in settlements and verdicts for our clients, you can be confident that DLG will handle your texting and driving car accident lawsuit with the utmost professionalism and dedication.
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