Push to Toughen Cell Phone and Texting Laws

SACRAMENTO, Calif. For those California drivers who still violate the law and text or use a handheld cell phone while driving, you have to listen to Brian Nelson's story.

He walks slow and with a limp now because of a cell phone-gabbing driver who hit him while riding his bike last summer.

"The gentleman didn't see me and he plowed right into me."

"He was on his cell phone?"

"Yeah. He didn't see me at all."

"And where did you end up?"

"On the hood of his car, clinging on for dear life."

The author of the original cell phone driving ban convinced a senate committee to approve a crackdown on Californians who continue to break the law by hitting them in their wallets harder.

The fine for talking on a handheld, or texting while driving, is currently $20 for the first offense. Senator Simitian's proposal increases the fine to $50 dollars, plus a point on your driving record. Tepeat offenses would double from $50 bucks to $100, and a point would also be added to your driving record.

"The notion here is a somewhat more significant fine, we'd have a greater deterrent and save more lives. It's really just that simple," said State Sen. Joe Simitian (D) Palo Alto.

C.H.P. says traffic collisions and fatalities dropped 20% from the previous five-year average before California's hands free law took effect. But that point on a driving record worries commercial truckers, who could lose their jobs.

"Truck drivers, we can't go to school to get it off our record, although other motorists can," said truck driver Basil Deanda.

Brian Nelson, though, says the stiffer penalties are necessary, given his leg will never be the same again because of that one driver who was distracted by his cell phone. "He wasn't paying attention to the law, basically, not only took his life into his hands, but took my life into his hands."

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