The use of cellular phones has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 285 million subscribers in the United States as of 12/31/2009. This increase has been accompanied by an increase in the number of individuals concurrently driving and talking or texting on the cell phone. Recent estimates suggest that cell phone users spend 60% of their time on a cell phone while driving a vehicle. You see people using cell phones in their cars every day as you make your commute to work.
Drivers who are talking or texting on cell phones become engrossed in their conversations and consequently neglect their driving and are violating the law!Offenders often violate rules of the road resulting in traffic collisions. Just a few of the most common violations observed by peace officers include:
- Lane weaving
- Illegal/Unsafe lane changes
- Red light violations
- Failing to stop for stop signs
- Speeding or going so slow as to impede traffic
California Vehicle Code section23123.5 (b) states that it is illegal to "write, send, or read a text-based communication" means using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message or electronic mail.
Q: If you are stopped at a red light, can you text while sitting at the red light? A: No, it's against the law. If you are stopped at a light or a stop sign, you are still in control of that vehicle and need to be able to react.
Q: If you are sitting in a traffic jam and your car is not moving, is it illegal to text while driving? A: Yes, it is still illegal. Again, you are still in control of the vehicle and should focus 100% of your attention to its safe operation.
Q: If you have parked your car in a parking space, but the car is still running, are you allowed to text while driving? A: Since you are legally parked, you can send your text.
Q: If you have pulled over to the side of the road but are not in a parking space, and the car is still running, is it illegal to text while driving? A: As long as the vehicle is stopped in an area that is not prohibited. We recommend that you pick a safe place to stop -- for example, a parking lot -- and remember to never stop on the freeway.
Q: Is it illegal to type directions into a digital map or GPS program on your phone while driving? A: No. The law does not say you can't type directions into a map or GPS program on your phone. However, we do not recommend that you do this activity while driving. This should be done before you begin driving.
Q: Is it illegal to read directions from your map or GPS program on your phone while driving? A: No. However, we do not recommend that you do this.
Q: Is it illegal to type directions into a GPS device that is separate from a phone while driving? A: No. Again, however, we do not encourage or recommend that you do this.
Q: Is it illegal to read texts that you receive while driving? A: Yes. Texting (composing, sending or reading) while operating a vehicle on public roadways is illegal.
Q: Is it illegal to read e-mails that you receive while driving? A: Yes.
Q: Is it illegal to type in a phone number that you then call with your hands-free device? A: No. You can still dial, and the new law doesn't prohibit you from dialing. However, as soon as you hit send, you must be hands-free. If you've got voice-activated dialing, it's even better.
Q: If you have a service that allows you to recite text messages that are typed onto the phone by voice recognition software, is that illegal to use? A: If you are using a hands-free device, that is using voice-recognition software ... technically you're hands-free, so you'd be OK.
Q: What are the penalties for texting while driving? A: They are similar to the cellphone law that went into effect July 1, 2008. The base fine for a first violation is $20; subsequent violations are $50. However, the total cost of the citation will be significantly higher than the base fine with the addition of local court costs and program fees. The exact penalty varies from county to county.
Q: If you get in an accident while texting while driving, are the penalties harsher? A: The penalty for violating that law remains the same. However, if your texting contributed to the collision, the officer could charge you with a host of other violations including reckless driving, unsafe speed for conditions, etc. If the collision should involve bodily injury or great bodily injury, you could also be charged with violation of VC 21070, which includes an additional base fine of $70-$95 (plus penalties and assessments).
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study which revealed that people who use cellular phones while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than the average driver. The impairment factor was measured to be equivalent to that of a DUI driver with a blood alcohol content of .08%.
Driver impairment also includes cell phone users who use "hands free" or "voice activated dialing" systems. A July 2001 study by University of Utah, revealed that the driver's loss of concentration, not the operation of the phone is what makes its use while driving so dangerous. One can argue that eating while driving, putting on make-up, changing the radio station or placing a compact disc in your player can pose the same threat. This is true. All of these activities require that you take your eyes off the road momentarily. Our department recommends that you do none of the above while your vehicle is in motion. Take the time to pull to a place of safety before you use your cell phone, or other device, which would distract your attention from the road.
In fact, in California, Section 22350 of the Vehicle Code requires persons to operate a motor vehicle with due regard for traffic, visibility and speed. Even the has a section dedicated to the use of cellular phones and driving. The California Highway Patrol and the Foster City Police Department recommends common sense in the use of cellular phones, and we urge users to familiarize themselves with their cellular telephone features and follow these tips:
- If possible, dial while the car is not in motion, such as at a traffic light or stop sign
- Learn to operate the phone without looking at it
- Never allow a phone conversation to distract you from driving
- Keep calls brief While talking, keep your head up and your eyes on the road, with frequent checks of side and rearview mirrors
- Use a hands-free device. It the law!
- Pay attention to your number one priority - driving safely
- No phone call is so important it is worth dying for!