September 01, 2006

Update on California Cell Phone Ban Silliness

Blog Update (June 29, 2007): Note that despite any rumors to the contrary, the law discussed in this entry takes effect on July 1, 2008, NOT 2007. It will then, as in other states with similar even stricter laws, be increasingly ignored as time goes by, while law enforcement rightly concentrates instead on serious issues.

Greetings. The legislation that I've previously discussed prohibiting driving in California in most situations while holding a cell phone passed last night (the presumption remains that Arnold will sign it), with its author continuing to proclaim that while it won't end cell phone distractions, at least it will get people to keep both hands on the wheel (of course, it doesn't require people to drive with both hands on the wheel!) The amount of distraction that will result from people fumbling around with hands-free devices, vs. just quickly popping the handsets to their ears, hasn't been mentioned. Will most cell phone users drive around proactively with bluetooth or other headsets in place when not actively engaged in calls? Probably not.

Also, a few changes are worth noting in the final version of the bill. The original bill stated that the $20/$50 fines would be inclusive of other fees or penalties. However, the final bill changes the fines to "base fines" -- which means that the out-of-pocket costs for dealing with them could easily exceed three times the base fine amount in most jurisdictions. The final bill also specifically notes that violations will not result in an infraction point on the driver's record and that it is not an infraction to drive while holding a cell phone if you're on private property (presumably parking lots, etc.) An exemption also now exists for certain specific push-to-talk applications, but only until mid-2011.

As I've noted previously, in other states that have implemented similar laws (even with fines as high as $500), compliance has dropped off very rapidly after an initial surge. There's no reason to expect anything different in California. The entire exercise remains utter silliness on parade.

Questions: If a driver is seen to be holding a cell phone when photographed by a red light camera, will they additionally be cited for the cell phone violation? If you tend to drive around like an old-style radio announcer with a hand cupped over your ear, will you be cited for presumptive illicit cell phone use?


Posted by Lauren at September 1, 2006 08:28 AM | Permalink
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