Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday for the second year in a row vetoed a bill that would have raised the fine for drivers who illegally use cellphones.

The bill, Senate Bill 1310 by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would have increased the base fine from $20 for a first offense to $30.

“I believe the current fines and penalties of $213 and $336 for cellphone use and texting while driving are a powerful deterrent,” Brown said in his veto message, referring to the total fine that includes state and county fees that get added on in court. “I have found even a $50 ticket unpleasant enough.

“My point here is that the current fines are not trivial but do, in fact, get drivers’ attention. Upping the fines may satisfy the punitive instincts of some, but I severely doubt that it will further reduce violations.”

Simitian’s bill also would have raised the base fine for second and subsequent offenses from the current $50 to $60 and those additional violations would have cost drivers a point on their driving record.

Last year’s bill by Simitian would have raised the base fine on drivers to $50 for the first offense and $100 for subsequent violations.

As Brown pointed out, the current base fine of $20 actual skyrockets once various state and county fees are added on, and the fees vary among counties. For example, a first-time cellphone offense in Sonoma County now costs a total of $160 and subsequent violations $280. Under SB1310, the total fines would have been about $200 for a first offense and about $370 for subsequent violations.

The extra $10 base fine would have been used to create and fund a distracted driving program at the state Office of Traffic Safety.

The bill also would have extended the state’s cellphone driving law to bicyclists, with a total fine — no added state or county fees — of $20 for the first time and $50 for subsequent times, but no driving record points.


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