Assemblymembers Lowenthal & Oropeza Vote For Bill Forbidding Driving While Using Phone Unless It's "Hands-Free"...Or Face Fine
(May 30, 2003) -- Driving while holding a cell phone will get you a ticket and a fine, if a bill supported by LB area Assemblymembers Alan Lowenthal and Jenny Oropeza becomes law.
Assemblymembers Lowenthal and Oropeza voted to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make it an infraction -- punishable by a fine after Jan. 1, 2005 -- to drive a vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless the phone is designed and configured to allow hands-free operation and is used in that manner while driving.
AB 45 -- on which Lowenthal is a named co-author -- would punish drivers who fail to use a hands-free phone by imposing a fine of not more than $20 for a first offense and not more than $50 for each subsequent offense, including all assessments and court costs.
The bill does not apply to a person using the cell phone to contact a law enforcement agency or public safety entity for emergency purposes.
We post below an Assembly legislative analysis, the bill text as currently amended and the Assembly vote on final passage that advanced the bill to the CA Senate.
ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
AB 45 (Simitian)
As Amended March 12, 2003
TRANSPORTATION 14-5 APPROPRIATIONS 19-6
|Ayes:|Dutra, Berg, Nunez, Chu, |Ayes:|Steinberg, Berg, |
| |Kehoe, Leslie, Liu, | |Calderon, Lowenthal, |
| |Longville, Nakano, | |Laird, Daucher, Diaz, |
| |Vargas, Parra, Pavley, | |Firebaugh, Goldberg, |
| |Salinas, Simitian | |Leno, Nation, |
| | | |Negrete McLeod, Nunez, |
| | | |Pavley, Ridley-Thomas, |
| | | |Simitian, Wiggins, Yee, |
| | | |Chu |
| | | | |
|Nays:|Houston, Bates, Benoit, |Nays:|Bates, Haynes, |
| |La Suer, Mountjoy | |Maldonoado, Pacheco, |
| | | |Runner, Samuelian |
SUMMARY : Creates an infraction for driving a motor vehicle
while using a wireless phone, unless it can be used hands-free,
and is used in that manner while driving. Specifically, this
1)Creates an infraction for driving a motor vehicle while using
a wireless phone, commencing on January 1, 2005, unless it is
specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free
operation, and is used in that manner while driving.
2)Establishes fines of no more than $20 for the first offense
and no more than $50 for each subsequent offense, including
assessments and court costs.
3)Exempts emergency calls to law enforcement agencies, health
care providers, fire departments or any other emergency
services agency or entity.
4)Exempts emergency service professionals operating an
authorized emergency vehicle, such as ambulances, police cars
and fire department vehicles, during the course of duty.
FISCAL EFFECT: According to the Assembly Committee on
Appropriations, moderate statewide local penalty revenue,
starting in fiscal year (FY) 2004-05, generated by fines imposed
on motorist use of cell phones. Since these fines explicitly
exclude state assessments that are generally added to most
vehicle infraction penalties, no state revenue is generated.
COMMENTS: The growing statistical and anecdotal evidence
linking cell phones to hazardous driving has resulted in a call
for action by several countries, numerous municipalities, and
many state legislatures.
The State of New York was the first to ban cell phone use while
driving, when it passed similar legislation in June of 2001. It
requires drivers to use hands-free devices when using mobile
phones unless the phone is being used to communicate with
police, fire, medical or emergency personnel. A violation
results in a $100 fine.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)
believes that state legislatures must start by addressing the
issues of improved data collection, enforcement of current
unsafe driving laws and education. The requirement of written
safety instructions and the labeling of equipment with such
instructions follows the industry's recommended education
The author argues that hands-on use of cellular telephones while
operating a motor vehicle has become a major factor leading to a
significant number of single vehicle accidents and multiple
vehicle collisions in California. Cell phone use has expanded
over the past decade to become one of the most prevalent reasons
for distracted driving. This bill focuses on one aspect of
motorist cell phone use, that of hands-on operation, in an
attempt to reduce motor vehicle accidents in California.
Several recent studies have emerged that reaffirm earlier
conclusions, that cell phone use while driving is dangerous. A
Harvard study released December 2, 2002 estimates that about one
in 20 (6%) of U.S. traffic accidents are caused by a driver
talking on a cell phone, resulting in 2,600 deaths and 330,000
injuries each year.
There are two aspects of cell phone use while driving that
result in significant distraction and collisions. A motorist
using a cell phone can be distracted when he or she picks up the
phone, has to concentrate on punching the number buttons, has to
hold the phone up to his or her ear to converse, and has to push
another button to end a call. It is this type of distraction
that is addressed by this bill. The other, potentially more
significant, kind of distraction results from the ongoing
conversation carried on between the motorist and the person on
the other end of the line. Studies and data indicate that
drivers can lose substantial cognitive touch with the situation
on the road when they are concentrating on a cell phone
conversation. This is true whether or not the motorist is
holding the phone up to his or her ear or is using a hands-free
A California Highway Patrol (CHP) study, required by AB 770
(Nakano), Chapter 710, Statutes of 2001, released in February
2003, concludes that cell phone use causes driver distraction
but the report is short on statistical data. The CHP report
recommends: a) continuing the collection and reporting of
collision data related to driver distraction; b) giving serious
consideration to requiring use of hands-free cell phones in
motor vehicles; c) improving cell phone consumer information,
adding a general "inattentive driving" violation to the Vehicle
Code; and, e) continuing law enforcement training on the proper
documentation of inattention factors.
In a study conducted by Professor Strayer at the University of
Utah, it was determined that the conversation itself is more
distracting than the actual physical maneuvers in involved in
cell phone use. Because of this, the professor asserted that
requiring the use of hands-free phones might send out the wrong
message and might give people a false sense of security.
The author believes that this hands-free requirement is a
minimal restriction on the use of cellular telephones in
automobiles and that it is a substantial step forward in dealing
with a significant driving hazard. Hands-free cellular
telephone equipment, or kits, are either given away with
telephones or can be acquired as an after-market purchase for
BILL NUMBER: AB 45 AMENDED
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY MARCH 12, 2003
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY FEBRUARY 24, 2003
INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Simitian
(Principal coauthors: Assembly Members Firebaugh and Nakano)
(Principal coauthor: Senator Cedillo)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Berg, Chavez, Chu, Frommer, Hancock,
Jackson, Laird, Levine, Liu, Lowenthal, Nunez, Salinas, Vargas,
Wesson, Wiggins, and Wolk)
(Coauthors: Senators Soto, Speier, and Torlakson)
DECEMBER 2, 2002
An act to add Section 23123 to the Vehicle Code, relating to
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
AB 45, as amended, Simitian. Vehicles.
Under existing law, motor vehicle operation is closely regulated,
and drivers must follow many legal requirements or face criminal
sanction. Under existing law, driving to the left of double parallel
solid lines, making an unsafe lane change, and driving faster than
is reasonable or prudent under the circumstances, or at a speed that
endangers the safety of persons or property, are all infractions. In
addition, it is a misdemeanor to drive any vehicle upon a highway in
willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
Aside from a provision making it unlawful to rent out a vehicle with
cellular radio telephone equipment unless the renter provides
instructions on the safe use of the equipment, there is no specific
limitation in existing law on the placement or use of wireless
telephones in motor vehicles.
This bill would make it an infraction, operative January 1, 2005,
to drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone, unless
that telephone is designed and configured to allow hands-free
operation, and is used in that manner while driving. This offense
would be punishable by a fine of not more than $20 for a first
offense and not more than $50 for each subsequent offense, including
all assessments and court costs. The bill would provide that this
prohibition does not apply to a person who is using the cellular
telephone to contact a law enforcement agency or public safety entity
for emergency purposes, or to an emergency services
professional while he or she operates an authorized emergency
vehicle, as specified.
By creating a new infraction, this bill would impose a
state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local
agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: yes.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the
California Wireless Telephone Automobile Safety Act of 2003.
SEC. 2. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) There are significant safety benefits associated with the
availability of wireless communication technologies, including
providing assistance that helps save lives and minimizes property
(b) On a daily basis, California drivers make thousands of
wireless telephone emergency 911 calls.
(c) The availability of wireless telephones in automobiles allows
motorists to report accidents, fires, naturally occurring
life-threatening situations such as rock slides and fallen trees,
other dangerous road conditions, road rage, dangerous driving,
criminal behavior such as drunk driving, and stranded motorist
(d) There is growing public concern regarding the safety
implications of the widespread practice of using hand-held wireless
telephones while operating motor vehicles.
(e) It is in the best interests of the health and welfare of the
citizens of the state to enact one, uniform, automotive wireless
telephone use law that establishes statewide safety guidelines for
use of wireless telephones while operating a motor vehicle.
SEC. 3. Section 23123 is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:
23123. (a) A person may not drive a motor vehicle while using a
wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and
configured to allow hands-free operation, and is used in that manner
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 42001, a violation
of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine, including all
penalty assessments and court costs imposed on the convicted person,
of not more than twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and not
more than fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.
(c) This section does not apply to a person using a wireless
telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an
emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider,
fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity.
(d) This section does not apply to an emergency services
professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized
emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and
scope of his or her duties.
(e) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2005.
SEC. 4. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the
Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the
meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
VOTES - ROLL CALL
MEASURE: AB 45
LOCATION: ASM. FLOOR
MOTION: AB 45 Simitian Assembly Third Reading
(AYES 49. NOES 27.) (PASS)
Berg Bermudez Chan Chavez
Chu Cohn Corbett Correa
Daucher Diaz Dutra Dymally
Firebaugh Frommer Goldberg Hancock
Jerome Horton Jackson Kehoe Koretz
Laird Leno Leslie Levine
Lieber Liu Longville Lowenthal
Matthews Montanez Mullin Nakano
Nation Negrete McLeod Nunez Oropeza
Parra Pavley Reyes Richman
Ridley-Thomas Salinas Simitian Steinberg
Vargas Wiggins Wolk Yee
Aghazarian Bates Benoit Bogh
Cogdill Cox Dutton Garcia
Harman Haynes Shirley Horton Houston
Keene La Malfa La Suer Maddox
Maldonado Maze McCarthy Mountjoy
Pacheco Plescia Runner Samuelian
Spitzer Strickland Wyland
ABSENT, ABSTAINING, OR NOT VOTING
Calderon Campbell Canciamilla Nakanishi