Red Phone: Cell phones and driving

Red Phone: Safety needed on 6th Street

On a Friday about 11:15 a.m. at the stop sign at Wren and
Leavesley I saw a Gilroy Police SUV in which the driver heading
south on Wren was talking on his cell phone as he was driving.
“On a Friday about 11:15 a.m. at the stop sign at Wren and Leavesley I saw a Gilroy Police SUV in which the driver heading south on Wren was talking on his cell phone as he was driving. I was just wondering if I missed something. Does that law not apply to the police who are giving us tickets for talking on our cell phones as we drive?”

and …

“Recently I’ve observed drivers of some white ‘City of Gilroy’ vehicles talking on their cell phones while driving. I don’t think that they are exempt from the state law regarding hands-free. Would you please verify this?”

and …

“How many drivers is the Gilroy Police Department citing for driving and either talking or texting while driving? I still see lot of people talking and texting while driving.”

Red Phone: Dear Distracted Drivers, The California Vehicle Code (23123, 23123.5 and 23124) requires drivers to use a hands-free device when talking on cell phones when driving. On duty emergency services professionals are excluded from this law as are people on private property. People younger than 18 are not allowed to talk on the phone at all while driving even with a hands-free device. Drivers are also not allowed to “write, send or read a text-based communication.”

The base fine is $20 for first offenders and then an additional $50 for each subsequent offense. The base fine does not include any court administrative fees, so when it’s all totaled, you’re looking at a fine of up to $250.

In its Wireless Device and Distracted Driver Safety Policy, the City of Gilroy requires that law enforcement officers use hands-free devices for all non work related business, said Gilroy Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao.

The city uses Nextel’s direct connect feature to relay sensitive and confidential information to field personnel that cannot be relayed over the open police channel because it could compromise the investigation or someone’s safety, he said.

Local law enforcement agencies have given out a good number of citations for cell phone violations. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 15, GPD has given out 693 citations for texting or talking on the phone while driving, Gallacinao said.

The California Highway Patrol gave nearly 5,000 citations in Santa Clara County last year for cell phone violations, said CHP Public Information Officer Jaime Rios. And in the local CHP Hollister-Gilroy area, 560 cell phone citations were given last year, he said.

Throughout the state, CHP issued 48,398 tickets for cell phone violations from July through December 2008. The texting law was introduced in January 2009.

In 2009, they gave out 185,454 citations (1,772 text, 183,682 cell). In 2010, they gave out 149,248 citations (3,328 text, 145,920 cell). And through July, they’ve given out 105,030 citations (4,330 text, 100,700 cell).

While the citations do help, you still see a lot of people illegally texting or talking on the phone while driving. All it takes is looking away from the road for a couple seconds for an accident to happen.

“This year law enforcement has really made an extra effort to crack down on cell phone violations due to the dangers that it poses,” Rios said. “The Hollister-Gilroy area will likely see a rise in the amount of citations issued as well; however, we are hoping that we can get more people to voluntarily comply with the law. This is done by educating the public on the dangers of cell phone use while driving.”

For more on the dangers of driving while using cell phones, visit depts_divs_offs/omr_texting.html.

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