Text message ban starts Thursday

December 28, 2008 3:53:29 PM PST
A new California law prohibiting the use of text message devices while driving is set to take effect statewide Thursday, the first day of 2009.

The California Highway Patrol is working with the California Department of Transportation to publicize the upcoming enforcement of SB 28, which will prohibit writing, reading or sending of text messages while in the driver's seat, CHP spokeswoman Jaime Coffee said.

"Texting and driving don't mix," Coffee said referring to the bill written by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September.

The text-messaging ban passed through the state Legislature without opposition, as did legislation that restricted driver cell phone use to hands-free units, and another prohibiting drivers under 18 years old from using a phone of any kind.

CHP officers have issued more than 45,000 citations for violating the cell phone bans since they went into effect in July, Coffee said.

"And that's not even counting all the ones issued by local police departments," Coffee said.

Violating the new ban will incur the same fines as the cell phone bans, Coffee said, $20 for the first violation and $50 for the second, with variable local assessments adding up to $150 on top of that.

"I got all kinds of calls from angry individuals who didn't know about those additional fees," Coffee said.

Citations and subsequent fines for drivers violating the text message traffic infraction will begin being issued when the law goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, according to the CHP.

"There will be no grace period," Coffee said.


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