By Kate Daly
Special to The Almanac
I admit to being a distracted driver that day, busy shuttling two cars to the shop for repairs so I could leave town on short notice. But when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop for touching my cellphone at a stoplight, I didn't think I was also a criminal.
To be clear: I was not texting, talking, or emailing, but was enabling the Bluetooth connection to receive calls via my car's audio system. My elderly mother is nearing the end, and I am in constant communication with her caregivers.
I had turned off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on my cellphone while I was in an unsecure environment at the car shop, and realized five minutes into my drive home that I hadn't changed the settings. One screen tap later, I learned I was breaking California's cellphone law.
I am now facing a court appearance, and/or paying a fine of maybe $150, according to a quick online search, but no points marring my driving record.
In hopes of sparing others a similar traffic ticket, I share verbatim what the San Mateo police officer handed me on a sheet entitled, "California's Cell Phone Law."
• While driving, you cannot use a cellphone or similar electronic communication device while holding it in your hand. If the device is used in a hands-free manner, such as speakerphone or voice commands, that is legal but never while holding it.
• Using communication systems built into the vehicle by the manufacturer is legal.
• To be legal, the phone or device must be placed in a mount attached either on the dashboard, center console, or a seven-inch square section in the lower right corner of the windshield, or in a five-inch square section in the lower left corner of the windshield nearest the driver. The mounting or device placement cannot hinder the driver's view.
• While driving, you can swipe or tap the screen one time while it is in the mount in order to activate or deactivate a feature or function. It is illegal to use multiple taps of swipes such as done while texting, entering information, or scrolling.
• The law applies at stop signs and stop lights, just like when you are driving. Pull over to a safe parking space to handle your business.
• Drivers under the age of 18 may not use any mobile communication device at all, whether hands-free or hand-held.
• You may use a hand-held cellphone for true emergency purposes to call law enforcement, fire department, health care provider or other legitimate emergency services agency."
Woodside resident Kate Daly is a contributing writer for The Almanac.