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Bikers Beat Up Prius Driver for Crashing into 2 Motorcycles

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on May 22, 2012 9:03 AM

A distracted Toyota Prius driver got a crash course in what not to do behind the wheel, and how not to cross paths with burly bikers looking for a fight.

The Prius driver, a 19-year-old man from San Jose, Calif., was headed north on U.S. 101 near Belmont about 8 a.m. Sunday when members of several motorcycle clubs sped by in the fast lane, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Prius driver took out his cell phone and began recording video, a California Highway Patrol officer said. And that's when trouble really took off.

The Prius driver, apparently distracted by his cell-phone video, at first veered to the right into another lane of traffic. He then overcorrected and swerved into the fast lane, hitting one of the bikers, CHP officers told the Chronicle.

The Prius crashed into a dividing wall and a second motorcyclist before stopping. Some bikers then confronted the 19-year-old driver and started beating him up, witnesses said. The driver also claims he was threatened with a knife.

When emergency crews arrived, the Prius driver and two bikers were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.

The Prius driver will be cited for distracted driving, the Chronicle reports. That likely falls under California's prohibition on using handheld cell phones while driving, which comes with a $20 fine for a first violation and a $50 fine for subsequent convictions, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Though using a handheld device while driving has been illegal in California since 2009, more drivers are getting caught. More than 60,000 tickets were issued for distracted driving in California in April 2012, up from 52,000 tickets in April 2011, Sacramento's KXTV reported.

As for the Prius driver's beating, the bikers responsible could be charged with battery -- the intentional use of force against another person. If convicted, battery is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine in California.

Being threatened with a knife is also grounds for an assault charge -- an unlawful attempt to cause violent injury. A conviction could result in up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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