News

Police out in force in Menlo Park, Atherton today

Anti-distracted driving campaign continues

As part of a federally funded program aiming to cut down on distracted driving, officers from the Atherton, Burlingame, Menlo Park and South San Francisco police departments will be patrolling in Atherton and Menlo Park on Friday, Sept. 11, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Atherton police say.

Last September a similar effort led to the issuing of 95 citations and 17 warnings for everything from talking or texting on a cellphone to driving without a license.

A notification from the Atherton Police Department said the goal of the program is "to change the behavior of drivers through enforcement, public awareness and education, the same activities that have curbed drunk driving and increased seat belt use."

The funding for the program comes from a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Barbara Wood

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by not enough
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 10, 2015 at 6:17 pm

If the cops really want to "change the behavior of drivers", they need to crack down on distracted drivers every day, not just once a year. How about start by cracking down once a week and see how much of a difference that makes? Is there so much other crime in this city that pedestrians safety is a low priority?


11 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 11, 2015 at 8:32 am

really? is a registered user.

Does this mean when I see a policeman looking at his phone while driving, I can give him a ticket?


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2015 at 9:52 am

Not Enough, no, it means this a special enforcement with extra cops. They still do it as a regular part of daily enforcement.


27 people like this
Posted by Sir Topham Hatt
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 11, 2015 at 10:22 am

Budget must be running out- time to shake the money tree!


Like this comment
Posted by Not equal
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Unfortunately, our legislature saw fit to exempt law enforcement from the cell phone rules. It is perfectly legal for a police officer to be texting or talking hands free while driving.


6 people like this
Posted by Betty T
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:11 pm

As an everyday downtown walker I will say thank you for the extra enforcement. Do we really need all the cynical comments


Like this comment
Posted by Navigator
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Does anyone happen to know if picking up a smartphone to glance at a navigation program map constitute distracted driving under the motor vehicle law? Thanks!


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Navigator:

This is the law:

V C Section 23123 Hand Held Wireless Telephone Prohibited Use

Hand-Held Wireless Telephone: Prohibited Use

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.

(c) This section does not apply to a person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity.

(d) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

(e) This section does not apply to a person driving a schoolbus or transit vehicle that is subject to Section 23125.

(f) This section does not apply to a person while driving a motor vehicle on private property.

(g) This section shall become operative on July 1, 2011.

Added Sec. 5, Ch. 290, Stats. 2006. Effective January 1, 2007. Operative July 1, 2011.
Amended Sec. 3, Ch. 214, Stats. 2007. Effective January 1, 2008. Operative July 1, 2011.

Judges interpret the "using" wording to mean doing anything with a cell phone including using the GPS. Has to be hands free and you can't pick it up.


Like this comment
Posted by law remains unsettled
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:12 pm

I don't think the law is so settled on cell phone use for navigation and gps. What constitutes "using" a cell phone does not yet have a consistent interpretation in the courts.

Web Link

Web Link



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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

law:

you're right it's not consistent. do you want to gamble on getting a judge that interprets "using" for any use of the phone. the fine is several hundred dollars.


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Posted by law remains unsettled
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:19 pm

I agree its not wise to do it. Strikes me as just as unsafe as other uses of the phone. People v Spriggs is the case btw:

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Two bottom lines on this discussion about using your cell phone for GPS. First, a Fresno court case basically said that a strict reading of the law allows things like GPSing, since it is not "communicating." The laws were written before smartphones existed.

Second, whether you talk, text, GPS, Facebook, Tweet, Candy Crush, Angry Bird, play poker, sell stocks or anything else on your cell phone, hands free or hand held, your concentration and sometimes your eyeballs are not on what you should be doing - navigating a 3,000 pound vehicle through a dance of near misses. It's stupid, dangerous, and no, you're not that good of a driver or multitasker


Like this comment
Posted by Navigator
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2015 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Menlo Voter and law remains unsettled, excellent info and references!

Clearly it saves a lot of time and hassle to not risk getting a ticket and having to fight it, with an uncertain outcome until the law gets clarified. I totally agree it is distracting to pick up a smartphone and peer at the map anyway, even if the address was set before leaving. Much better to just make sure the sound is good and loud to be able to hear the directions and not have to look at it. My next car will have built-in navigation for sure!


3 people like this
Posted by SaraMP
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 11, 2015 at 9:06 pm

I wish they could have caught the SUV with Illinois plates I was behind today. He straddled two lanes on Linfield Drive, and then again he couldn't stay in his lane on Middlefield, then stopped three car-lengths behind the limit line at Willow. At least he was only in one lane at that point. I pulled alongside and saw he had a cigarette in one hand and was holding a phone in front of his face with the other.


2 people like this
Posted by Law is settled
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Unless and until the legislature amends the law, it's perfectly settled. California courts are obligated to follow a published appellate decision as binding precedent. There's a separate law banning texting while driving. This ruling notes that looking at the phone to check the time, map, etc., does not violate the law. Holding it while talking on it (or texting on it) does.

@Dave, not sure how looking at the map on the phone is different than looking at the map on the built-in GPS of a car.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 12, 2015 at 7:39 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

law is settled:

it may be settled, but I came up against a judge that didn't follow the appellate decision and tried to shut me down when I was fighting a texting ticket. He cited the "using" language of the phone law. Fortunately for me, the officer had cited me using the texting section and could not testify that I was doing anything beyond holding my phone because he couldn't see the screen. The judge had to dismiss. He wasn't happy about it either. I'm convinced if I had been cited under the phone section he would not have dismissed. I'm sure that judge knows the vast majority of people aren't going to have the time or money to appeal his bad decision. IMHO it's simply not worth taking the chance on coming up with a judge such as I did.


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Posted by Law is settled
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

Menlo Voter, I do understand your point about not wanting to be bothered having to appeal a decision by a judge who either doesn't know about the Spriggs decision or (less likely) decides s/he disagrees with it and doesn't want to follow it. Hopefully these forums will improve the education of the general public about their rights (so if ticketed, they can quote the decision in court, or better yet, to the citing officer). Yes, I know the officer probably will not like hearing what s/he would perceive as a lecture on an appeal's court decision, but hopefully the police departments will educate officers on this decision also.


2 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 12, 2015 at 10:50 am

Law is Settled, looking at a map on a cell phone is somewhat similar to looking at a built-in GPS. And rather than quibbling about the fine points of law and jurisprudence, I would hope that the discussion and awareness be about the relative risks of distracted driving. The risk from a quick glance at a billboard or pushing a button on the dashboard is relatively small. Your attention and concentration are interrupted minimally. The risk in writing a text message or programming a GPS is much greater. On one hand your eyes and cognitive abilities might be away from driving for a half second. The average reaction time for an impending crash is 1.5 seconds. Reading or writing a text message or making sense of a complicated GPS might take your eyes and brain away from driving for 4-5 seconds or more. Other activities fall in between. A few take even longer.

The point is not how to legally get away with driving distracted. The point is not to drive distracted. If you keep these things in mind - eyes off the road from no longer than a second, cell phone conversations (hand held or hands free) moves more than a third of the brain's functioning away from driving, and involved two way voicing with mobile devices are just as distracting as regular texting - then you will both avoid a ticket and be at minimal danger of causing or not being able to react to a crash. Agreed?


Like this comment
Posted by Law is Settled
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm

"The point is not how to legally get away with driving distracted. The point is not to drive distracted."

In the context of cops giving tickets (this article), distracted driving = what is legally required to establish distracted driving.

However, I otherwise agree with you on how we should personally strive to form better driving habits.

If people can find good reason to make the law more restrictive, there's a process for this. It isn't perfect, and sometimes there are people who suffer from the law being too restrictive or not restrictive enough, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the system doesn't work until you compare it to any other alternative.


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

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