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California drivers still texting despite law

September 15, 2010 |  2:24 pm

California drivers are still sending text messages from behind the wheel, despite a state law banning the practice, according to an Auto Club study released Wednesday.

The survey, which sampled 4,000 vehicles in Orange County, found that 2.7% of motorists were observed texting at any given time. That's twice the rate surveyed in January 2009, when the state's ban went into effect.

Auto Club officials said the figures show the need for better enforcement of the law and higher penalties for those who violate it.

Drivers who are caught texting are fined $20 for a first offense, and no points are assessed to the driver's record.

A bill, SB1475, designed to strengthen the texting-while-driving ban by increasing penalties, including adding a point to driving records, was recently defeated in the Legislature.

In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes caused by distracted drivers -- many of whom were texting, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times