As of Thursday, January 1st, text messaging while driving is banned in the State of California.

Senate Bill (SB) 28, authored by Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, specifically bans the use of an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving.

The bill will impose a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

In September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation that prohibits drivers from using text messaging devices while operating a vehicle.

“Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians,” Schwarzenegger said.

Sgt. Renaldi Thruston of the Santa Monica Police Department told The Argonaut in an interview in September, “We feel it’s definitely dangerous if you’re distracted while you’re driving. That was the purpose of the new law, which prohibits driving and talking on the cell phone.

“This will create a safer environment for drivers if they follow the law.”

Thruston even noted that texting while driving is probably more dangerous than talking on a hand-held cell phone “because you have to look at the keys, and at some point, you take your eyes off the road.”

The ban on text messaging will complement an existing law — also authored by Simitian — that went into effect July 1st, which prohibits all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while operating a vehicle.

Drivers 18 and over may use a hands-free device, but drivers under the age of 18 may not use a cell phone or a hands-free device while operating a vehicle.

“I think it’s another safety issue,” Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said in an interview in September. “Text messaging requires some contact with your fingers and the pad as well as your eyes looking down at what you’re text messaging.

“How can you, at the same time, go 60 miles per hour? I don’t think it works. I think people need a break from the addiction.”