Thousands Cited For Using Cell Phones While Driving
Paul NelsonChannel 2 News
You've probably seen people talking or texting on the roads, despite a relatively new hands-free law making it illegal. But statewide, thousands of people have been ticketed for using their phones while driving.
"We're seeing more violations where people are sitting at a traffic light, either reading an email, getting ready to send a text, or just looking at a phone, in general," NHP Trooper Chuck Allen said.
During a ride-along with Allen, we found one woman doing exactly that.
"I knew you couldn't do it while you're driving," she said. "I just assumed it was okay if you're standing still."
For first-time offenders, this type of ticket will cost you $112. For the second offense, you pay even more and points are assessed against your driver's license. And a third offense will cost you $352.
Since this law took effect, NHP's northern command has written 1,645 citations and given 314 verbal warnings. Allen says he sees a lot more violators when he's off duty but it's a little harder to catch them when he's in a marked car.
"I see it all the time," Allen said. "Somebody will be on the phone and they'll put it right down. I've had troopers tell me that they've stopped somebody that they've clearly seen talking on the phone. When they talk to the violator, the violator says the phone is in the back seat, there's no way I could have been talking on it."
Studies have shown using a cell phone is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of point .08%. Still, the only thing stopping some people is a ticket.
"Sometimes at a stoplight," Melissa Sharpe said. "I did get pulled over for it, once, but I I've stopped since because I can't afford a ticket."
"There should be a lot more citings because there's a lot more people talking on their cell phones," Jesse Richardson said. "I drive around, every day, and there's 50 to 100 people on cell phones, including cops."
Some groups, like law enforcement are exempt from the law, as long as it's endorsed by their Sheriff, Chief or Director and is used for work duties. As for everyone else, they might have to learn the hard way.
"Subconsciously, they know it's illegal but as long as you don't get caught, it must be okay," Allen said. "Maybe that's the concept. I don't know."
Getting caught on the phone can also lead to other citations, like expired license plates or insurance. Some stops have even lead to DUI arrests.