We Can't Quit

It appears we simply won't give up our phones.

Red-light cameras have been a gold mine for many jurisdictions, but the money to be made from cell phone violations is exponentially higher. If you haven't received one of these tickets, pay attention: 27 states have primary enforcement texting bans in place or will start primary enforcement later this year, and it is illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Maryland joins that crowd Oct. 1 and Delaware in January 2011, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute chart of cell phone laws (http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx).

It appears we simply won't give up our phones. On June 30, Commissioner Joe Farrow of the California Highway Patrol noted the primary enforcement law in California had taken effect two years earlier, on July 1, 2008. He seemed surprised so many people were disobeying it.

CHP officers during those two years had issued more than 244,000 citations to drivers who violated the hands-free law, Farrow said. California fines violators a minimum of $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense. "Many people were accustomed to using cell phones while driving before the law took effect, and it may be difficult for some people to change this practice," he said. "However, we all need to try hard to obey this law since driving is a complex task requiring a motorist's full attention. Even a moment of inattention can have disastrous consequences for a driver and those around them." He said more than 1,200 collisions had occurred during the two-year period where a contributing factor was inattention by the driver because of cell phone usage, with 16 deaths and more than 850 people injured in those wrecks.

June 30 also was the date of the funeral of Philip Ortiz, the fourth CHP officer to die in the line of duty from a traffic accident in June 2010 alone.

"Too many motorists have been injured or died because of inattention while driving," Farrow said. "Drivers need to put down the phone and focus on driving. Otherwise, it may cost you your life or the life of your loved ones."

I hope we're paying attention, but I doubt it.

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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