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Phone law nets 10 tickets a day

Posted: July 31, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.
An average of 10 people a day in Santa Clarita Valley were charged under the new “hands free” cell phone law passed a month ago, officials reported Thursday.

California Highway Patrol officers and deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station reported issuing a total of 320 citations in July to people for allegedly talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving.

“We’re getting the message out there,” CHP Officer Michelle Esposito said Thursday.

Of the 320 citations, 260 were handed out by local CHP officers and the rest by sheriff’s deputies.

Statewide, although numbers for the first month were still being tallied at day’s end Thursday, at least 6,563 citations were issued by the CHP statewide in July.

Esposito said CHP citations were issued to motorists on area highways and in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clarita Valley.

The whole point of the “hands-free” law is to ensure motorists are paying attention to their driving.

“When you’re inattentive, you’re not paying attention to all the other things going on around you,” Esposito said.

The cell phone law, issued July 1 in California, is called the “Hand-Held Wireless Telephone: Prohibited Use” law.

It states: 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.

The law lists a number of exceptions such as if the caller is using the phone for emergency purposes. It carries a $20 fine for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

If every citation issued in Santa Clarita was paid, the state would take in $6,400. Similarly, California would have made $131,260 on paid citations issued by the CHP last month.

Nationwide, more than 260 million people subscribed to wireless communication devices such as cell phones last month, compared with approximately 4.3 million in 1990, according to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

According to the Insurance Information Institute where numbers about car accidents are crunched daily, the increased reliance on cell phones has led to a rise in the number of people who use the devices while driving.
There are two dangers associated with driving and cellphone use, including text messaging, according to the latest figures posted on the institute’s Web site.

First, drivers must take their eyes off the road while dialing. Second, people can become so absorbed in their conversations that their ability to concentrate on the act of driving is severely impaired, jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians.

In March 2000, a 15-year-old girl in Virginia was struck and killed by a driver who was fumbling with her cell phone while making a business call at the time of the fatal collision.

Four years later, in a civil case filed in response to the collision, a circuit court judge in Virginia ordered the driver to pay more than $2 million in damages to the victim’s family.

The CHP is holding a car safety class for young drivers beginning Aug. 26.

The course, called Start Smart, is designed to not only educate young drivers but educate their parents on how be car safety teachers behind the wheel.


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