Cell Phone Crackdown: In-car cell phone conversations will be outlawed by July 1 | SierraSun.com

Cell Phone Crackdown: In-car cell phone conversations will be outlawed by July 1

Jenny GoldsmithSierra Sun
Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra Sun File PhotoSean Behm, 23, talks on his cellular phone while driving around in December 2007. As of July 1, California drivers will be prohibited from using wireless phones while behind the wheel.
ALL |

Starting Tuesday, July 1, California law enforcement officials are hoping to save as many as 300 lives each year by reducing the number of accidents caused by drivers chatting on a hand-held phone. Weve probably all been behind that driver who is just oblivious and driving dangerously. Often times, when we get a chance to actually see the driver, we see a cell phone up against their head, said Sgt. Jason Litchie of the Truckee Police Department. Hopefully this new law will reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road.In September 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that called for a base fine of $20 for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. Drivers may not consider the $20 fine threatening enough to keep their hands at 10 and 2, but motorists who neglect the law and subsequently cause a fatal accident could face significant civil liabilities, Litchie said. If someone causes a fatal or serious injury accident and they were on their cell phone, then yes, that would definitely be an issue in the case, Litchie said. We could bring up the cell phone record to check times and depending on the case, it could affect the charges. If a motorist in the Truckee-Tahoe area is pulled over for cradling a cell phone to the ear, Litchie said police officers will have no mercy. This is a law that has had tons of advanced notice so theres no reason to issue warnings, Litchie said. The law will be even tougher on teenagers, as drivers under 18 will be prohibited from using any wireless phone while driving, including the hands-free devices that adults will be free to use, Litchie said. It seems area drivers are taking the law seriously, with local retail stores reporting that they are quickly selling out of the permissible hands-free devices.Since the new law has come out and its getting close to the deadline, headsets have been selling like crazy, said Andy Oroz, authorized retailer at the ATandamp;T store in Truckee. Radioshack at the Gateway Center in Truckee is rapidly selling out of hands-free accessories, such as the Blue Tooth ear pieces, said sales representative Misty Broyles. Im glad this law has passed because Ive come so close to getting hit by people talking on their cell phones, and its very irritating, Broyles said. Although texting will still be an issue.Text messaging will still be legal for adults, but not for minors.