When July 1 rolls around, Californian teens will have to find new time to catch up with one another on their cell phones – because using electronic devices while behind the wheel will become a crime for those under 18. Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar signed the bill, known as SR33, into law on Thursday, banning the use of cell phones, laptops, PDAs, pagers and all two-way messaging devices while operating a motor vehicle for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Many states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut already enforce bans on the use of handheld phones while driving. California will join the likes of Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and others that ban cell phone use specifically for inexperienced drivers.
Schwarzeneggar cited statistics illustrating that car crashes are the number one cause of death for those 16 to 20 years old to justify his support for the bill. “The simple fact is that teenage drivers are more easily distracted,” he said when he signed the bill. “They are young, inexperienced and have a slower reaction time.” He would know: his own daughter just turned 16 and started driving.
The law’s teeth will be a relatively weak $20 fine for a first offense, and $50 for every citation after that. In addition, police officers won’t be allowed to make traffic stops for cell phone violations alone.