Cell Phone Laws Hands-Free Restriction–Are people Complying?

imageCity of Davis

Back at the end of June the public was bombarded with news stories on television and in the newspaper that a new law was coming. Drivers would be fined if they are caught using a phone without some sort of hands-free device while driving. The first offense carries with it a $20 and that increases to $50 for subsequent violations.

On the other hand, despite being a clear public safety risk the DMV would not assign a point on people’s driving record.
Despite an article last week in the Davis Enterprise which stated that most people are now following the law, I have not seen much evidence of that. Every time I am driving around town, I see a sizable number of people talking on the phone as though no law existed. Perhaps this suggests that people are now aware of the law and stash their phone safely away when they see a police vehicle.

I was curious as to whether or not the Davis Police were issuing citations for the offense.

So in early August, I made a public records request to the police department and was told that there were 42 citations issued in the month of July for violation of the hands-free cell phone restriction.

Of course, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistics do not mean much without context and so there was little way to evaluate what 42 meant. Is that a high a number? Or a low number?

I surmised that despite the CHP warning in late June that there would be no grace period, perhaps on the street, officers might be giving warning rather than tickets in the first month.

So I waited a month and made the same records request for August and discovered that the number fell from 42 to 27.

So either people were complying more or the police were issuing fewer citations.

My research on this included a few conversations with some in law enforcement, the gist I came with is that this is not a priority for law enforcement in Davis. There is no really assigned traffic officers anyway other than the motorcycle officers. The priority has been to patrol in front of the schools. So any citations would be almost incidental. Thus 69 citations in two months might actually be higher than expected.

Anecdotally, there are two confounding pieces of information. The first is the number of people I have personally observed driving while talking on their cell phones. The other is the large quantity of blue-tooths and other hands-free devices that have been purchased recently.

At the end of the day, I am still torn on the issue anyway. Studies have shown cell phone usage is comparable to drinking while driving in terms of impaired reaction time. TV shows have shown people driving while talking on the phone cannot react to road obstacles nearly as fast as those who have full attention. On the other hand, even holding a conversation hands-free slows that down. The safety issue is fairly clear-cut.

On the other hand, the libertarian side of me would prefer that government impose fewer such laws on the public. If someone is an actual safety risk due to them being distracted on the phone, by all means pull them over. But if someone is basically driving safely and obeying the laws, let them continue to talk on the phone.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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52 thoughts on “Cell Phone Laws Hands-Free Restriction–Are people Complying?”

  1. Anonymous

    This law was written to enrich the state with $60,000,000 in sales tax from Bluetooth sales. It has nothing to do with safety. People are just as distracted with or without a hands free device. It shouldn’t be a priority with law enforcement.

  2. Anonymous

    This law was written to enrich the state with $60,000,000 in sales tax from Bluetooth sales. It has nothing to do with safety. People are just as distracted with or without a hands free device. It shouldn’t be a priority with law enforcement.

  3. Anonymous

    This law was written to enrich the state with $60,000,000 in sales tax from Bluetooth sales. It has nothing to do with safety. People are just as distracted with or without a hands free device. It shouldn’t be a priority with law enforcement.

  4. Anonymous

    This law was written to enrich the state with $60,000,000 in sales tax from Bluetooth sales. It has nothing to do with safety. People are just as distracted with or without a hands free device. It shouldn’t be a priority with law enforcement.

  5. Anonymous

    I see just as many people using cell phones while driving. They are driving just as poorly. The police should concentrate on citing poor drivers not just someone using a cell phone.

  6. Anonymous

    I see just as many people using cell phones while driving. They are driving just as poorly. The police should concentrate on citing poor drivers not just someone using a cell phone.

  7. Anonymous

    I see just as many people using cell phones while driving. They are driving just as poorly. The police should concentrate on citing poor drivers not just someone using a cell phone.

  8. Anonymous

    I see just as many people using cell phones while driving. They are driving just as poorly. The police should concentrate on citing poor drivers not just someone using a cell phone.

  9. Driving in Davis

    I have seen three people in Davis over the last two weeks talking on cell phones. Before I noticed that they were on cell phones I saw that they were driving poorly and one was about to turn the wrong way on a one way street. After passing them by I noticed that they were talking on cell phones.

    It’s quite irritating. They should simply pull over, get a speaker or or turn the speaker feature on, or get a blue tooth. It’s simple and they are being irresponsible. They are poor drivers and should be cited for being poor drivers. I got the license plate of one and called it in.

  10. Driving in Davis

    I have seen three people in Davis over the last two weeks talking on cell phones. Before I noticed that they were on cell phones I saw that they were driving poorly and one was about to turn the wrong way on a one way street. After passing them by I noticed that they were talking on cell phones.

    It’s quite irritating. They should simply pull over, get a speaker or or turn the speaker feature on, or get a blue tooth. It’s simple and they are being irresponsible. They are poor drivers and should be cited for being poor drivers. I got the license plate of one and called it in.

  11. Driving in Davis

    I have seen three people in Davis over the last two weeks talking on cell phones. Before I noticed that they were on cell phones I saw that they were driving poorly and one was about to turn the wrong way on a one way street. After passing them by I noticed that they were talking on cell phones.

    It’s quite irritating. They should simply pull over, get a speaker or or turn the speaker feature on, or get a blue tooth. It’s simple and they are being irresponsible. They are poor drivers and should be cited for being poor drivers. I got the license plate of one and called it in.

  12. Driving in Davis

    I have seen three people in Davis over the last two weeks talking on cell phones. Before I noticed that they were on cell phones I saw that they were driving poorly and one was about to turn the wrong way on a one way street. After passing them by I noticed that they were talking on cell phones.

    It’s quite irritating. They should simply pull over, get a speaker or or turn the speaker feature on, or get a blue tooth. It’s simple and they are being irresponsible. They are poor drivers and should be cited for being poor drivers. I got the license plate of one and called it in.

  13. No On Cell Phones While Driving

    “I got the license plate of one and called it in.”

    Good for you!!! Cell phone users are a menace on our roads. If you have a cell phone in your hand, then you don’t have it on the wheel of the car. On top of that, you are chatting with someone, or text messaging, another distraction.

    I read about some guy who was ticketed for get this: text messaging on his cell phone while reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. Multi-tasking while driving is just as bad as drinking while driving. If you are guilty of it, I hope the police ticket you consistently, and often.

    Trust me, when these people cause an accident, too often it is the innocent public that gets injured or killed. We probably need to start a MAC group – Mothers Against Cell Phone Users! I’m not conflicted about this issue in the least. Public safety trumps any consideration of “freedom to use cell phones while driving”.

  14. No On Cell Phones While Drivin

    “I got the license plate of one and called it in.”

    Good for you!!! Cell phone users are a menace on our roads. If you have a cell phone in your hand, then you don’t have it on the wheel of the car. On top of that, you are chatting with someone, or text messaging, another distraction.

    I read about some guy who was ticketed for get this: text messaging on his cell phone while reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. Multi-tasking while driving is just as bad as drinking while driving. If you are guilty of it, I hope the police ticket you consistently, and often.

    Trust me, when these people cause an accident, too often it is the innocent public that gets injured or killed. We probably need to start a MAC group – Mothers Against Cell Phone Users! I’m not conflicted about this issue in the least. Public safety trumps any consideration of “freedom to use cell phones while driving”.

  15. No On Cell Phones While Drivin

    “I got the license plate of one and called it in.”

    Good for you!!! Cell phone users are a menace on our roads. If you have a cell phone in your hand, then you don’t have it on the wheel of the car. On top of that, you are chatting with someone, or text messaging, another distraction.

    I read about some guy who was ticketed for get this: text messaging on his cell phone while reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. Multi-tasking while driving is just as bad as drinking while driving. If you are guilty of it, I hope the police ticket you consistently, and often.

    Trust me, when these people cause an accident, too often it is the innocent public that gets injured or killed. We probably need to start a MAC group – Mothers Against Cell Phone Users! I’m not conflicted about this issue in the least. Public safety trumps any consideration of “freedom to use cell phones while driving”.

  16. No On Cell Phones While Drivin

    “I got the license plate of one and called it in.”

    Good for you!!! Cell phone users are a menace on our roads. If you have a cell phone in your hand, then you don’t have it on the wheel of the car. On top of that, you are chatting with someone, or text messaging, another distraction.

    I read about some guy who was ticketed for get this: text messaging on his cell phone while reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. Multi-tasking while driving is just as bad as drinking while driving. If you are guilty of it, I hope the police ticket you consistently, and often.

    Trust me, when these people cause an accident, too often it is the innocent public that gets injured or killed. We probably need to start a MAC group – Mothers Against Cell Phone Users! I’m not conflicted about this issue in the least. Public safety trumps any consideration of “freedom to use cell phones while driving”.

  17. Anonymous

    Old definition of a dropped call: Losing a telephone signal.

    New definition of a dropped call: Dropping the phone in your lap when a police officer is spotted while driving.

  18. Anonymous

    Old definition of a dropped call: Losing a telephone signal.

    New definition of a dropped call: Dropping the phone in your lap when a police officer is spotted while driving.

  19. Anonymous

    Old definition of a dropped call: Losing a telephone signal.

    New definition of a dropped call: Dropping the phone in your lap when a police officer is spotted while driving.

  20. Anonymous

    Old definition of a dropped call: Losing a telephone signal.

    New definition of a dropped call: Dropping the phone in your lap when a police officer is spotted while driving.

  21. Anonymous

    What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicle drivers. How is it reasonable to assume it is safe for these people to use cell phones while driving and yet it is unsafe for the rest of us. Emergency Personel out of all drivers should be required to use hands free devices while driving. The operation of computers, sirens, emergency lights, radios and note taking combine to make these drivers extremely distracted before they ever get to the cell phones which most of us agree are in themselves a dangerous distraction.

  22. Anonymous

    What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicle drivers. How is it reasonable to assume it is safe for these people to use cell phones while driving and yet it is unsafe for the rest of us. Emergency Personel out of all drivers should be required to use hands free devices while driving. The operation of computers, sirens, emergency lights, radios and note taking combine to make these drivers extremely distracted before they ever get to the cell phones which most of us agree are in themselves a dangerous distraction.

  23. Anonymous

    What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicle drivers. How is it reasonable to assume it is safe for these people to use cell phones while driving and yet it is unsafe for the rest of us. Emergency Personel out of all drivers should be required to use hands free devices while driving. The operation of computers, sirens, emergency lights, radios and note taking combine to make these drivers extremely distracted before they ever get to the cell phones which most of us agree are in themselves a dangerous distraction.

  24. Anonymous

    What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicle drivers. How is it reasonable to assume it is safe for these people to use cell phones while driving and yet it is unsafe for the rest of us. Emergency Personel out of all drivers should be required to use hands free devices while driving. The operation of computers, sirens, emergency lights, radios and note taking combine to make these drivers extremely distracted before they ever get to the cell phones which most of us agree are in themselves a dangerous distraction.

  25. Anonymous

    IF public safety is number one, then Davis has lost the initiative to enforce even the most obvious problem on our streets; under 18 bicycle riders without their helmets STRAPPED on. I have seen hundreds of kids over the last few weeks, some not even in posession of their helmet. Just last week I witnessed four kids (probably from Holmes Jr. High) on three bikes. One was standing on the rear axle bolts of their friends bike, one was in the middle of the street and NONE of them were wearing helmets. Start with the kids and the parents will follow. If the DPD can’t even enforce something as simple and safety minded as this, cell phones are way down on the list.

  26. Anonymous

    IF public safety is number one, then Davis has lost the initiative to enforce even the most obvious problem on our streets; under 18 bicycle riders without their helmets STRAPPED on. I have seen hundreds of kids over the last few weeks, some not even in posession of their helmet. Just last week I witnessed four kids (probably from Holmes Jr. High) on three bikes. One was standing on the rear axle bolts of their friends bike, one was in the middle of the street and NONE of them were wearing helmets. Start with the kids and the parents will follow. If the DPD can’t even enforce something as simple and safety minded as this, cell phones are way down on the list.

  27. Anonymous

    IF public safety is number one, then Davis has lost the initiative to enforce even the most obvious problem on our streets; under 18 bicycle riders without their helmets STRAPPED on. I have seen hundreds of kids over the last few weeks, some not even in posession of their helmet. Just last week I witnessed four kids (probably from Holmes Jr. High) on three bikes. One was standing on the rear axle bolts of their friends bike, one was in the middle of the street and NONE of them were wearing helmets. Start with the kids and the parents will follow. If the DPD can’t even enforce something as simple and safety minded as this, cell phones are way down on the list.

  28. Anonymous

    IF public safety is number one, then Davis has lost the initiative to enforce even the most obvious problem on our streets; under 18 bicycle riders without their helmets STRAPPED on. I have seen hundreds of kids over the last few weeks, some not even in posession of their helmet. Just last week I witnessed four kids (probably from Holmes Jr. High) on three bikes. One was standing on the rear axle bolts of their friends bike, one was in the middle of the street and NONE of them were wearing helmets. Start with the kids and the parents will follow. If the DPD can’t even enforce something as simple and safety minded as this, cell phones are way down on the list.

  29. Anonymous

    DPD,
    Thank you for this article. #1, Lies, #2 damn lies, #3 statistics and you forgot,#4 distortion of the truth. 69 total for two months? How many citations were issued for all other traffic offenses in that time frame. What percentage was 69 of the total for those 2 months?

    What other departments did you check with in this or another county to make a fair comparison with one city, Davis. There are a huge number of items a small number of cops have to respond to and this one is only a drop in the bucket.

    You should get off the couch and go downtown and watch the number of cyclists ride through stop signs with a cell phone to their ear, oblivious. There appears to be only one Police Officer on bike in the downtown area. That officer seems to deal with bike and traffic problems relentlessly.

    In addition to having read your blog a number of times I can tell you this, you are often guilty of 1,2,3,and 4 above.

  30. Anonymous

    DPD,
    Thank you for this article. #1, Lies, #2 damn lies, #3 statistics and you forgot,#4 distortion of the truth. 69 total for two months? How many citations were issued for all other traffic offenses in that time frame. What percentage was 69 of the total for those 2 months?

    What other departments did you check with in this or another county to make a fair comparison with one city, Davis. There are a huge number of items a small number of cops have to respond to and this one is only a drop in the bucket.

    You should get off the couch and go downtown and watch the number of cyclists ride through stop signs with a cell phone to their ear, oblivious. There appears to be only one Police Officer on bike in the downtown area. That officer seems to deal with bike and traffic problems relentlessly.

    In addition to having read your blog a number of times I can tell you this, you are often guilty of 1,2,3,and 4 above.

  31. Anonymous

    DPD,
    Thank you for this article. #1, Lies, #2 damn lies, #3 statistics and you forgot,#4 distortion of the truth. 69 total for two months? How many citations were issued for all other traffic offenses in that time frame. What percentage was 69 of the total for those 2 months?

    What other departments did you check with in this or another county to make a fair comparison with one city, Davis. There are a huge number of items a small number of cops have to respond to and this one is only a drop in the bucket.

    You should get off the couch and go downtown and watch the number of cyclists ride through stop signs with a cell phone to their ear, oblivious. There appears to be only one Police Officer on bike in the downtown area. That officer seems to deal with bike and traffic problems relentlessly.

    In addition to having read your blog a number of times I can tell you this, you are often guilty of 1,2,3,and 4 above.

  32. Anonymous

    DPD,
    Thank you for this article. #1, Lies, #2 damn lies, #3 statistics and you forgot,#4 distortion of the truth. 69 total for two months? How many citations were issued for all other traffic offenses in that time frame. What percentage was 69 of the total for those 2 months?

    What other departments did you check with in this or another county to make a fair comparison with one city, Davis. There are a huge number of items a small number of cops have to respond to and this one is only a drop in the bucket.

    You should get off the couch and go downtown and watch the number of cyclists ride through stop signs with a cell phone to their ear, oblivious. There appears to be only one Police Officer on bike in the downtown area. That officer seems to deal with bike and traffic problems relentlessly.

    In addition to having read your blog a number of times I can tell you this, you are often guilty of 1,2,3,and 4 above.

  33. Anonymous

    "What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency
    Vehicle drivers."

    It's simple. For the same reason they can speed and blow through traffic signals and stop signs. Because the benefit of them helping others (& in this case communicating to help others)outweighs the risk of the behavior.

  34. Anonymous

    "What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency
    Vehicle drivers."

    It's simple. For the same reason they can speed and blow through traffic signals and stop signs. Because the benefit of them helping others (& in this case communicating to help others)outweighs the risk of the behavior.

  35. Anonymous

    "What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency
    Vehicle drivers."

    It's simple. For the same reason they can speed and blow through traffic signals and stop signs. Because the benefit of them helping others (& in this case communicating to help others)outweighs the risk of the behavior.

  36. Anonymous

    "What I fail to understand about this law is the exclusion pertaining to Law Enforcement and Emergency
    Vehicle drivers."

    It's simple. For the same reason they can speed and blow through traffic signals and stop signs. Because the benefit of them helping others (& in this case communicating to help others)outweighs the risk of the behavior.

  37. Anonymous

    I’m not certain the risk of the behavior outweights the benefit as it pertains to cell phone use. Even emergency reponders are taught not to speed or blow the stop signs if there is an alternative. In the case of cell phones, the simple alternative is to always use the headset or a speaker phone. If the emergency responder has time to pick up and use a cell phone, he or she has the time and ability to put an earpiece in the ear or enable the speaker phone. Furthermore, if the responder is unable to hear the speaker because of background noise then the responder probably shouldn’t be on the phone in the first place.

  38. Anonymous

    I’m not certain the risk of the behavior outweights the benefit as it pertains to cell phone use. Even emergency reponders are taught not to speed or blow the stop signs if there is an alternative. In the case of cell phones, the simple alternative is to always use the headset or a speaker phone. If the emergency responder has time to pick up and use a cell phone, he or she has the time and ability to put an earpiece in the ear or enable the speaker phone. Furthermore, if the responder is unable to hear the speaker because of background noise then the responder probably shouldn’t be on the phone in the first place.

  39. Anonymous

    I’m not certain the risk of the behavior outweights the benefit as it pertains to cell phone use. Even emergency reponders are taught not to speed or blow the stop signs if there is an alternative. In the case of cell phones, the simple alternative is to always use the headset or a speaker phone. If the emergency responder has time to pick up and use a cell phone, he or she has the time and ability to put an earpiece in the ear or enable the speaker phone. Furthermore, if the responder is unable to hear the speaker because of background noise then the responder probably shouldn’t be on the phone in the first place.

  40. Anonymous

    I’m not certain the risk of the behavior outweights the benefit as it pertains to cell phone use. Even emergency reponders are taught not to speed or blow the stop signs if there is an alternative. In the case of cell phones, the simple alternative is to always use the headset or a speaker phone. If the emergency responder has time to pick up and use a cell phone, he or she has the time and ability to put an earpiece in the ear or enable the speaker phone. Furthermore, if the responder is unable to hear the speaker because of background noise then the responder probably shouldn’t be on the phone in the first place.

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