Cell Phone Banniversary

June 29, 2009 7:37:41 PM PDT
This Wednesday marks a year since it became illegal in California to talk on your cell phone while driving. Since July first, tens of thousands of tickets have been handed out.The California Highway Patrol says even though people know about the hands free law, it's going to take more time for it to stick.

It's been nearly a year since California law made it illegal for drivers to talk on their cell phone without a hands free device. And still, some people don't seem to care.

"I see no change whatsoever. It seems like there might be more people talking on their cell phone while they're driving," said Mike Rudd.

"Will you admit that there has been a few times where you've talked on your phone?" "Yeah, there's been a few times," said Jody Hernandez.

"Oh my gosh, I see people yacking on the phone, and I ... oh mine's ringing?ha ha," said Karen Whitney.

We stood on the corner of Mooney and Walnut in Visalia for fifteen minutes, and counted six people talking with a phone to their ear.

On the corner of Blackstone and Shaw in North Fresno, we counted five in fifteen minutes. Some drivers think the hands-free law has too many grey areas, like can you still dial a number or talk on your speaker phone.

The CHP says though writing a ticket is at the officer's discretion, overall, the law is pretty clear.

Officer Axel Reyes said, "If we see them doing something, what appears to be texting more than nine digits or so, what would normally be a phone number, then that's kinda what we're looking for towards a violation."

Officer Axel Reyes of the California Highway Patrol says the law has made a difference, but that California drivers still need more time.

"For instance like the seat belt law when it first came out not everyone was doing it. It took some time to get used to it same thing with this law," said Officer Reyes.

During an hour and a half ride-a-long with Officer Reyes, we watched as he pulled over two drivers.

The first driver, who did not what to be on camera, was let off with a warning. She had a hands free device in her car, but said it ran out of power. The other driver we pulled over was also let go with a verbal warning.

"That's my work phone. My boss just called me. I just got off work. He just called me on my walky talky and I hardly ever use it, and that was it," said Ricardo Castaneda.

Since the law was enacted on July first of last year, the CHP has written a total of 3,576 citations in the Central Valley. The Fresno Police Department has written 9,412. The Visalia Police Department has written 1,109.

"Officers didn't write it too often towards the beginning and just like everything else, they gave more verbal warnings than normal. But now, it's being enforced," said Officer Reyes.

But some drivers think there needs to be more enforcement. They say the hands-free law was created for a reason; something people need to remember when they're talking on their phone.

"We have too many laws on the books that aren't enforced so we're just making people criminals and making them have less respect for the law," said Mike Rudd.

A first time offense for driving without a hands-free device will cost you 20 dollars. But with court fees, it could be more than 100 dollars.

And again, it's not just talking on your cell phone that's illegal, it's also illegal to text while you drive.

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