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Stiffer Penalties For Drivers Who Break The Hands-Free Law

As part of California’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in April law enforcement will be holding zero tolerance days for cell phone use and texting.

Drivers who get ticketed for texting or using a non-hands-free cell phone behind the wheel will pay seven times what they did in December for a first-time offense.

As part of California’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in April law enforcement will be holding zero tolerance days for cell phone use and texting. A ticket for violating either the hands free or no texting law will cost a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets will cost $279.

In December, a first-time offense for breaking the hands-free law was $20; subsequent fines were $50.

“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” said Captain Dave Fontneau, Commander of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's Lake Elsinore Station. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159? Additionally I’d like you to consider the human costs. People suffer preventable injuries every day at the hands of distracted drivers.”

Starting April 4 and throughout the month, the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station will join over 225 local agencies plus 103 CHP area commands in conducting zero tolerance enforcements on cell phone use and texting.

Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher J. Murphy said in a press statement that it may be difficult for some to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call, so police are using harsher penalties as a way to change drivers’ habits.

“Convincing California drivers to wear seat belts 20 years ago wasn’t easy either, but in 2010 more than 96 percent buckled up and thousands of lives were saved,” he said.

Studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver. A July 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study showed that motorists who use hand-held devices are nearly three times as likely to cause a crash.   

Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes, and no driver under 18 is allowed to use a mobile phone -- even with a hands-free device.

During 2009, the CHP reports that in Lake Elsinore and Wildomar, there were 12 collisions involving distracted teen drivers, ages 15-19. Of those collisions, five of the drivers were injured.

Countywide, there were 186 collisions involving distracted teen drivers -- 77 of those drivers were injured, according to the CHP’s 2009 numbers.

Statewide, the 2009 numbers were more dire: Of the reported 3,858 collisions involving distracted teen drivers, 10 teens were killed and another 1,583 injured.

In a March 3 CHP report, during a four-year period (2005–2008) California drivers between the ages of 15 to 19 were involved in more than 20,000 collisions where inattention was a factor. “Among those crashes, 41 percent resulted in injury or death,” the March 3 report stated.

Murphy said he hopes the tougher penalties will help decrease the number of distraction-related accidents and that drivers will “use some common sense when they’re behind the wheel and focus on driving.”

“Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive everyday,” Murphy said. “Were any really worth a $159 ticket – or worse, a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it.”

Vince April 01, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I gotta call: BULLSHIT on this one...I got one of the "old" fines in December, that was set at $20 for the 1st offense, which it was for me, and of course it blew up to $175.00 with added "court costs"...so I imagine the "new improved" ticket will cost someone well over $500...
John April 01, 2011 at 08:13 PM
We do have a financial crisis in the state, so they have to make it up somewhere... instead of pension reform and eliminating the ridiculous hand outs, they fine the tax payers even more.
Ken Mayes April 01, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Try obeying the law. Your probably one of the dump-asses that don't know what stop means, no it doesn't mean slow down a bit and keep on rolling along. If you'all don't like the law then change it with your power to vote.
J Carabine April 01, 2011 at 10:51 PM
Seriously, your mad because the fine is higher on this?? LOOK around you No one is paying attention to the drive. Last week while doing 75 on the FREEWAY a lady was TEXTING beside me.. .. she was about 50 something. I see SO many people talking on their phones IN their hands while driving and a car full of kids WHO BTW have no choice in this when you smash into a pole and kill them. I wish the fine was higher....People STOP calling while driving and go back to driving. What the heck is so important at that moment when you are in control of a 2000 pound vehicle??
J Carabine April 01, 2011 at 10:53 PM
I agree with Vince I knew someone who had a first offence under the old rules and in the end paid around $200 with a bunch of added fees. The fine is the least of the issue though .
Donna April 02, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Actually, I hope they catch as many as they can, I am so sick of seeing these people on their phones, listen up, a hand free ISN'T THAT EXPENSIVE!! Just get one and USE IT!! As far as the texting goes, that is just asking to DIE, go ahead people, have you not seen the VIDEOS where people are KILLED or left PARALYZED? Can it NOT wait? Really, is worth your life or another innocent persons life?
Vince April 02, 2011 at 01:09 AM
No Ken, but you apparently are one of those dump-asses who can't read, and comprehend simple english...And I imagine that chewing gum and walking at the same time may be overly challenging for you too...Where may I ask you, did I say ONE thing about disagreeing with the law? Let me help you so you don't drool all over your tie-dyed Wife Beater, whilst you read and reread my Post, moving your lips as you go, and running for the dictionary to look up some of the really tough words I used, like: "in", or "the": NOWHERE did I complain about the law, just the fact that they are misrepresenting the actual fine total...or let me put it to you in a way you may be better able to get a grtasp on: "Dis, dat, dem, dose, dese....duh." Better? Knuckle dragging drolling imbeciles who don't understand what they are reading, are absolutely a bigger problem then folks talking on their phones while they drive...
Ken Mayes April 02, 2011 at 02:05 PM
You don't disagree with the law but you got the ticket. Case closed
Donna April 02, 2011 at 04:28 PM
I suppose you, Ken, have never made a mistake? Being you can call people names and assume they don't know how to drive....roll through stop signs and so on?? Shame on you!
Vince April 03, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Tell 'im Donna!!! I hope they catch those who use phones illegally on the road too!!! BUT, by the same token, it would be nice if "they" (the power's that be), would be a tad more forthcoming with just how much the fine ends up being after throwing in all the "Bum Money" they pile into the final tally...AND, if they did outline the "Bum Money" just a tad better, most folks might be just a tad more careful about using a phone while driving---but then again, if they knew the true potential, then collecting "Bum Money" wouldn't be near as easy---and of course, Bum's need lovin' too, and since they don't want to work, SOMEBODY has to pay for 'em, so it may as well be regular ol' folks who work for a living, and can afford the luxury of a vehicle AND a cell phone, eh? ADDITIONALLY, studies clearly show that it is the act of simply talking on a phone, be it with a hand's free device, or with one's hand's, that is the most distracting---and I have no doubt that if "they" did a study on a fella like ol' Ken here, it'll prove out that since he usually has one hand busy while driving, be it a finger up his nose, or elsewhere, and since he isn't talking on a phone at the same time, all his attention is given to the task of....driving, despite his busy fingers. So he too will show that is the act of TALKING that distracts the driver...BUT, you go ahead and give Ken some gum, and by golly, it'll probably be a different story entirely....jes' sayin.
Kristi Garfield April 03, 2011 at 05:23 AM
The fees involved in violations are substantially higher than just the fine fee. There are substantial hidden costs. Cell phone usage, talking or texting, while driving is a HUGE problem. Large enough for a known provider to advertise against it... www.att.com/txtngcanwait It is my understanding that car manufacturers are currently discussing the possibility of audio response aids to assist drivers in keeping up with social networks (Facebook 5.7 million subscribers). Wow! Wouldn't this be dangling the proverbial carrot????
Vince April 03, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Kristi, Here is a coupla paragraphs from a study about going "Hand's Free": "The research suggests hands-free headsets and built-in phones like "OnStar" are no safer than handheld phones: it's the conversation that distracts drivers. And the research calls into question laws passed in states and Washington, D.C. requiring drivers to use hands-free phones under the belief that they're safer. Remarkably, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has kept hundreds of pages of the research secret since 2003. The documents were only released by public advocates public advocates who had to sue to get them." Now, it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to recognise that this study is "a known" by our wonderful state of CA----so the next logical step is to also recognise that "they" don't want to kill the proiverbial goose that lays the golden egg---Cell Fines are an easy to access Cash Cow, and a reliable source for more money to waste unnecessarily on crap that boggles the mind---ya might should maybe wanna take a look at some of the "program's" CA piles money into that are way beyond ridiculous. As usual, it is all about money, with little, ot nothing to do about safety, or saving lives. Facts are inconsequential, and "the ends justify the means"....
Kristi Garfield April 03, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Vince, Great response! To me, this issue, for many individuals, has been placed in the denial (It won't happen to me...) category. Its right up there with drunk driving and the false sense of security that many gleam from driving a big SUV. For many, personal perception is their reality. I won't even comment on the big money aspect of it all....ugh!
Vince April 04, 2011 at 05:53 AM
Kristi, Fact is, when I got my ticket I was up on my mountain going home, with NOBODY coming, or going, in either direction...just me, far as the eye could see. My ear piece (Blue Tooth) had gone dead, and as luck would have it, I got a call...and jeez, since nobody was around, I answered it with my hand!! And right then a CHP came SCREAMING up behind me, and saw me on the phone through my truck's back window=Luck of the draw!! I have been using cells since they first came out, all the way back to the days of the big' ol' Military Field Phone looking affair, at a buck a minute (circa: mid-80's), and never got in a wreck, and never lost track of what I was doing behind the wheel---BUT, never say "never", huh? It's a good law, 'specially for those who feel a need to text while driving....BUT, my feeling is that since it was promoted as a "$20 1st Offense Fine" (with hidden SURPRISE costs, up 'till the new rate that still has hidden costs) , many people took the chance figgering it was a "coin tossin' " CHEAP CHANCE ...and THAT right there smacks of BS, and the kind of BS known to lull people into breaking the law...all by design, and that, I truly believe, since human's are highly predictable critter's, and would mostly think: "20 bucks isn't all that much"....eh? The new "advertised" rate should now curtail use I would think...which may just put a serious damper on the hopes and dreams of those "they's" who want to cash in on the law...

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