Increased Driving And Texting Penalties: Deterrent Or Nanny State?

May 2, 2011

It could soon be more expensive to drive and text in California, as the state Senate just voted to raise financial penalties for talking or texting on hand-held phones while driving.

Lawmakers voted to raise the base fine from $20 to $50 for a first offense. Fines for subsequent violations were raised from $50 to $100.

However, in California, cities and counties can add fees and surcharges for items such as traffic safety programs, court security, and even courthouse construction. When these added fees and penalties are factored in, California drivers could face total costs for a first offense of over $300, and over $500 for a second offense.

Deterrent or nanny state?

California instituted restrictions on hand-held phones while driving three years ago. Some Democratic Senators believe these curbs are responsible for lowering the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths on California roads.

However, Republican Senators counter by saying that such laws are disliked by the public and represent the worst attributes of a “nanny” state. Others have said the law is not needed because states where similar restrictions don’t exist also had fewer accidents.

The bill—as passed by the Senate—will extend the ban on texting and talking on hand-held phones to cyclists.

Senate approval allows the bill to now move to the state Assembly.

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