Get caught driving while chatting or texting and you may face a stiffer penalty if proposed legislation goes through the state assembly.
The state Senate approved SB28 Monday that would increase fines for those caught driving while using a hand-held phone to either make a phone call or send a text.
The base fine would increase from $20 to $50 per violation under the bill, which now goes to the Assembly.
Currently, drivers who violate the law in San Diego County face a total of up to $160 in fees and fines for a first offense. That fine will jump to $280 under the proposal. A second offense in San Diego could cost a driver up to $480 in base fees and surcharges. That amount is equivalent to a red light camera citation.
Elsewhere in California, with various fees, a first offense would cost $328, up from the current $208. A repeat offender could be fined $100, or $528 with fees.
A subsequent violation would also add one point to the motorist's driving record.
The fine amounts are not set in stone, according to San Diego Superior Court spokesperson Karen Dalton.
“Citation fees are as individual as one’s driving record. For example, second offenses and higher driving speeds can cause fees to be significantly higher and upgrade citations to a misdemeanor or a mandatory appearance could be required,” Dalton said.
The proposed legislation would also make it illegal for a person riding a bicycle to talk on a hand-held cell phone.
A similar bill died last year in an Assembly committee. Senate approval this year comes during "distracted driving awareness month."
The CHP issued more than 9,700 tickets for illegal cell phone use through Friday, and will write significantly more through April than the 10,000 to 11,000 it would issue in a typical month.
The CHP and local agencies have "zero tolerance" days scheduled for Tuesday in the Sacramento area; Wednesday in the Los Angeles area; and Thursday in the San Francisco Bay area and counties north of Sacramento.