Read Street Smarts, put down the cell phone and drive, reader says
Dear Street Smarts,
Thanks for your dedication to what might seem like a boring assignment but you provide a very important service. Too bad more people aren't reading – I try to read all of them – because it seems to me drivers are getting worse everyday. Cell phone use is probably the worst thing to mix with driving. I even see law enforcement doing it. Texting while driving, that's insane. I've seen people texting on the freeway doing speeds varying from too slow to too fast all unsafe.
Do you have any figures on cell phone/driving infractions? Clearly if law enforcement wants to, they could be writing tons..
Michael Bombardieri via email
This assignment is never boring Michael and I wish more people read Street Smarts, too! Now about your concern: Distracted driving, particular that cause by illegal cell phone use, is “a huge” problem, local law enforcement officials said. And they do write their fair share of tickets to drivers who are violating the hands-free law.
Here's a snapshot of tickets written locally from the California Highway Patrol:
- 2010: 2,518 no hands-free device, 4 under 18 with any communication device, and 40 texting citations;
- 2011: 2,858 no hands-free device, 9 under 18 with any communication device, and 116 texting citations;
- 2012 (year to date): 2,892 no hands-free device, 13 under 18 any device, and 168 texting citations.
“As you can see, each category is increasing,” said officer Sarah Jackson, CHP spokesperson.
Being that officers see the damage done by distracted drivers every day, law enforcement takes texting/talking and driving quite seriously, she said, “as evidenced by the numbers above. We are also doing as much education on this topic as possible.”
As for police officers using their cell phones while behind the wheel, there is an exemption for that in California Vehicle Code section 21055, “along with several other sections,” said Sgt. Matt Eller, traffic sergeant for the Capitola Police Department.
“We do use our cell phone in the course of business,” he said. “Even though we are exempt, the caveat is we must drive our vehicles 'safely.'”
Part of using cell phones for business includes protecting the privacy of crash victims and “tactical coordination amongst officers,” said Jackson.
Members of the “media and private citizens monitor our patrol radio communications, she explained. “What we say and hear on our patrol radios is often either personal information or confidential tactical coordination amongst officers. I once investigated a tragic collision which took the life of a teenage boy. Because I did not have cell or mobile computer reception in the area, his identifying information had to be communicated via patrol radio. This creates a terrible situation when you consider parental notifications.”
Learn more about distracted driving from the California Office of Traffic Safety at www.ots.ca.gov/docs/Distracted_Driving_Facts.doc
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