'Zero tolerance' for distracted drivers


April is crackdown month for law enforcement officers throughout California, who will be holding "zero tolerance" days for people driving while using hand-held cell phones, either for phone calls or text messages.

"How often do you see drivers texting or talking with hand-held cell phones and wish they would be stopped and cited?" asked Lt. Ray Lunny of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

"Distracted driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts everyone on the road at risk, joining speeding and alcohol as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes," he said in a statement by the Sheriff's Office.

Citations will cost drivers a minimum of $159 for the first time and $279 after that, Lt. Lunny said.

Driving while using a hand-held device quadruples the risk of an accident serious enough to injure someone, he said, adding that studies have shown that this behavior has as severe an effect on reaction time as drunken driving.

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Like this comment
Posted by scam
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

If using a cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, why aren't the penalties the same? Distracted driving laws are a scam.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

"Scam" -- you're right that the laws are out of line on this. To answer your question, it's partly because of lobbying and other legislative distortions from both the telecoms and transportation industries.

Moreover, hands-free is equally bad, contrary to the distinction implied by the quoted police officer. It's the distraction more than the manipulation that's the issue, as research shows. Either way is equally dangerous. See Web Link for citations of some research into the matter.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

If you read the above article that lists university studies, the studies show cell phones more dangerous than being "drunk". When you look further the studies show based upon accidents in the study and braking onset time the "drunk" drivers performed better than the non-drunk drivers.

The media and government love to find single issues and point fingers. If we are trying to save lives we also need to look at road designs, car designs, young drivers, old drivers, overcrowded roads, aggressive drivers, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Driving me crazy
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Huh? I thought the law says the fine is $20 for a first offense, $50 thereafter, and expires on July 1 of this year.

23123. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a
wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and
configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in
that manner while driving.
(b) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a
base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty
dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.
. . .
(h) This section shall become operative on July 1, 2008, and shall
remain in effect only until July 1, 2011, and, as of July 1, 2011,
is repealed.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

The much more sensible law should be a hefty fine for the act of driving stupid.
It could encompass eating or drinking while driving, shaving, putting on makeup, brushing ones hair or teeth, wearing a hoody, wearing earphones, smoking, using a computer, reading, pet in lap, significant other in lap, not-so-significant other in lap, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:39 am

"James", read the article again. The Sheriff's Lieutenant, not police officer, was quoted as saying, "distracted driving is a serious safety concern.....". Distracted driving includes handsfree driving, and like Bob said, any acts that distract a driver from doing what they're supposed to be doing, which is....driving. It's too bad drivers can't be cited for simply doing anything that causes them to be distracted from the multitasking already involved in driving.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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