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California traffic safety laws vetoed by Gov. Brown

California has proven itself to be a leader in the fight against distracted driving and other behaviors that lead to preventable car accidents. Most states have a ban on texting while driving, but California is one of about a dozen states to also ban the use of handheld cellphones.

But there is always room for improvement, especially because rates of bicyclist and pedestrian accidents in California remain unacceptably high. Unfortunately, Gov. Brown recently vetoed two traffic safety bills that had strong bipartisan support in the state Senate and Assembly.

The first was Assembly Bill 1646, which aimed to increase penalties for distracted driving. If enacted, drivers who were ticketed for cellphone use behind the wheel would have higher insurance rates and would have a point added to their driver’s license. Gov. Brown vetoed the bill, calling it unnecessary.

The other vetoed legislation was Assembly Bill 1532, which concerned hit-and-run accidents. Fleeing the scene of an accident is already illegal, but this bill would have added increased penalties in cases when the hit-and-run accident involved bicyclists or pedestrians.

Commenting on the first bill, Gov. Brown said: "I certainly support taking reasonable steps to curb cell phone use and texting while driving, but I don't believe this bill is necessary at this time to achieve that goal. I'm instructing the Department of Motor Vehicles to add a question about the dangers of using a communication device on the driver license exam. Additionally, the department is beginning a review and analysis of data on distracted driving in California. Let's wait to see the results before enacting a law requiring a violation point."

The dangers of distracted driving are well established at this point. As such, the governor’s “wait and see” attitude is somewhat confusing. Nonetheless it is encouraging to see that California legislators are working together and making traffic safety a top priority.

Source: TheNewspaper.com, “California Governor Vetoes Anti-Motorist Bills,” Oct. 3, 2014

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