Did you know last Thursday, July 1, marked the two-year anniversary of California’s hands-free law? According to California Highway Patrol statistics, far too many motorists “are still not dialed-in to the rules and are either being cited for it or becoming a grim statistic.”
CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a recent press release he thinks that many motorists may have been used to driving and using a cell phone at the same time before the July 2008 law went into effect.
We would like to say that might be a factor, but since 2008 more drivers who think they depend on cell phones are also on the roads. Cell phones are not just for making calls anymore, but for text messaging, looking at social networking sites and surfing the Internet. Cell phones are part of many people’s moment-to-moment existence and consume so much attention that cell phone usage is becoming an addicting habit.
Driving a motorized vehicle requires full attention and even a moment of inattention can have disastrous consequences.
According to Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System data complied by the CHP, since the inception of the hands-free law, there have been more than 1,200 collisions throughout the state in which a contributing factor was a driver using a cell phone.
Those same collisions resulted in 16 fatalities and more than 850 victims injured.
To make it clear: The law states no driver can text message while driving, and no driver under age 18 can use a cell phone at all while driving. Drivers over the age of 18 can use a hands-free device such as an earplug or SYNC.
Statewide CHP officers have issued more than 244,000 citations to motorists violating the law. The fine is not high. The minimum base fine for the first offense is $20 and $50 for the second offense.
Of course, other fines and court costs can make the offense expense. But is it worth the extra costs, which undoubtedly could be property damage, injury or vehicular manslaughter charges?
Put your cell phone down or if you don’t have the willpower to leave it alone while driving, put it in the vehicle’s trunk. No call, text, e-mail or Internet curiosity is worth an accident or a life.