Sonoma County police agencies today are joining with dozens of departments around the state in the latest crackdown on drivers texting or not going hands free on their cellphones.

Santa Rosa police, for example, will have 18 officers today devoted to looking for violators, Sgt. Rich Celli said. Of those, four will be bicycle officers who patrol the downtown area.

Today’s crackdown is part of a month-long, stepped up enforcement of the state’s cellphone and texting laws. In the first week of the crackdown, Celli said, Santa Rosa officers averaged about 100 tickets a day but that number has tapered off since.

If you figure those 100 tickets were for first-time offenders, whose fine totals $160 each, the officers were writing tickets worth a total of $16,000 each day. The fine jumps to $280 a ticket for subsequent violations.

But before you jump to the conclusion that Santa Rosa’s getting rich off these tickets, consider that the city gets only 85 percent of the $20 base fine for first offenders. That’s $17 a ticket. The rest of the fine goes to the county and state because of numerous fees and surcharges that the Legislature has added to traffic tickets. Subsequent violations carry a base fine of $50 but a total cost of $280 with all of the fees.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has revived his campaign to increase fines for cellphone use and texting by drivers — and bicyclists.

He’s re-introduced legislation that would raise the base fine of a driver’s first violation to $50, which with fees would total about $300 a ticket, and the base fine for subsequent violations to $100, which with fees would be about $500.

His bill also would add a penalty point on motorists’ driving records for repeat violations of the hands-free cellphone law and would apply the cellphone and anti-texting laws to bicyclists. But bicyclists would only pay $20 total for a first offense and $50 total for subsequent and would not receive points on their driving record.

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    April 14th, 2011 8:16 am

  2. BV

    “He’s re-introduced legislation that would raise the base fine of a driver’s first violation to $50, which with fees would total about $300 a ticket, and the base fine for subsequent violations to $100, which with fees would be about $500.”

    Why stop there? Texting is equal to driving with what, 4 beers in you? So treat it like a DUI and raise the fee to $15,000. Get those evil texters! Get ‘em!

    April 14th, 2011 8:43 am

  3. Ken

    Simitian bill is a needed one. I’d also like to see DUIs be punished much more for the first offense.

    April 14th, 2011 8:44 am

  4. Bob Sacomano

    Great, hit the morons where it hurts…the wallet. It should be a $1000 fine.

    April 14th, 2011 8:47 am

  5. Mortimer Tanferan

    There needs to be an exception in this law because these peoples cannot help themself, it is like a cocane addiction using these cellphones these peoples cannot control them selves and should have be sentenced to AA meetings because they are out of control and need there higher power to help them not the police. can have CPA-cell phone anonimous. maybe they can taok to each other on fake or dummey cell phone at cpa meeting. Well at least they are not drinking and talking at same time while driiving.

    April 14th, 2011 9:01 am

  6. Luke

    Its funny to me that most police officers are openly on the phone while driving around. I guess the law dose not apply to the law. What a free society we live in. The police constantly harassing me is more of a distraction then my phone. Someone should start a web site to post pictures of the police on the phone. O wait that’s probably illegal.

    April 14th, 2011 9:40 am

  7. bill

    Police officers are exempt from the cell phone while driving law

    April 14th, 2011 10:16 am

  8. Road.Warrior

    Lot of questions about public safety employees on their cellphones while driving. Here’s what the state Vehicle Code, Section 23123(d) says: “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.”

    April 14th, 2011 10:28 am

  9. joe

    good enforce the laws….how about gettng the agressive drivers also.

    April 14th, 2011 10:30 am

  10. laci

    My take on minors being ticketed and fined is that albeit the ticket would go on their personal driving record I feel that most parents would end up paying the fee :( and that’s just from what I’ve seen.

    Agree? Or disagree?

    April 14th, 2011 10:33 am

  11. Brad

    Oh cool, the legal industry has found a new way to shake down the public. Now if they’d just start putting the squeeze on all those bicycle dorks that clog the roads it’d make my day.

    April 14th, 2011 10:58 am

  12. M.C Rider

    Hey, public safety employees are not super human last week in san jose i was nearly ran over by a cop on a cellphone!

    April 14th, 2011 11:07 am

  13. Jake S.

    Do people not realize that public safety employees are allowed to be on the phones to communicate with dispatchers and fellow public safety employees? On a radio you can only say so much, and you must be concise about it too.

    April 14th, 2011 12:26 pm

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