Sacramento – State legislators approved a bill by Assemblymember Tom Daly (D – Anaheim) increasing penalties for distracted driving. Assembly Bill (AB) 47 requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to assess a point on a driver’s license, under certain circumstances, if they are convicted of a violation for operating a handheld wireless or communication device while driving.
"Driving while using a cell phone is a serious safety issue,” Assemblymember Daly said. “Yet, under current law, the penalty for driving while using a cell phone amounts to a small fine (oftentimes less than a parking ticket), which cannot be expected to change driver behavior.
“This bill will elevate a distracted driving citation to the same status as other dangerous driving violations, such as speeding or running a red light,” Daly added. “The risk of getting a point added to your DMV record will help discourage people from persisting in this dangerous practice."
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2016, 3,450 people were killed by distracted drivers. A year earlier, in 2015, 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
However, under existing law, after fees and assessments, the total cost for a first-time ticket for improper use of a handheld device while driving is $162 and no negligent operator points. The point system is used by DMV to determine if a driver should be considered a negligent operator.
DMV may suspend or revoke a person's driving privilege for being a negligent operator. An individual is considered a negligent operator if they receive four or more points in 12 months, six in 24 months, or eight in 36 months. With the exception of DUIs, points remain on your record for a total of 36 months.
DMV can assess points for a variety of driving violations, including illegal U-turns, interfering with a driver's control of a vehicle, driving too fast, or crossing a double line.
Writing in support, the Automobile Club of Southern California noted that “AB 47 recognizes that our existing penalty for distracted driving is insufficient to deter this very dangerous practice. Multiple studies have confirmed that the DMV's negligent operator treatment system is effective in making drivers better, roads safer and saving lives of road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, the absence of a point for wireless violations diminishes the violation and sends motorists the wrong message as to the severity of this violation.”
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Tom Daly represents the 69th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Orange & Santa Ana.