Law mandates hands on wheel with cell phones
Its time for New Years resolutions and one sure to be on everyones list is to give up chatting on the cell phone while driving. Effective July 1, adult drivers in California will need a hands-free device to use a cell phone in the car.And drivers under 18 will be prohibited from using a wireless phone while driving even if they use a hands-free phone.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. Motorists were given more than 18 months to obtain a new cell phone, headset or other hands-free device before the statute becomes law.I think this law is a good thing to come in effect, said Truckee resident Julie Rogers. What drives me crazy is people who dont pay attention when theyre on the phone and for example drive 40 mph in a 55 zone.As manager of the AT&T store in Truckee, Rogers said she has noticed a boost in the sales of hands-free accessories, such as a Blue Tooth ear pieces and speaker-phone car kits.Sean Behm, a Bay-area resident who travels to Truckee every weekend, said the new law seems reasonable, especially for teenagers, even though he spends his time on Interstate 80 catching up on phone calls.I try not to use my cell phone on city streets, or in situations where road conditions and traffic patterns are different than what Im used to, Behm said Monday in an interview. I use my instincts, but I think thats something a younger driver wouldnt do as compared to a seasoned driver.Behm said the new law wont be an inconvenience for him because the new car he plans to acquire will be equipped with a hands-free telephone, but added that he may not abide by the new law all the time. There will definitely be times when Ill use my phone for a quick call when it would be inconvenient to set up my Blue Tooth or reach for my handset, he admitted.The law will allow drivers of commercial vehicles to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011, as well as drivers of emergency vehicles to use a cell phone without a hands-free device.The cell phone ban is among hundreds of changes in state law that take effect with the new year. Included in a restriction on smoking behind the wheel if children are in the car.Starting today, motorists could be hit with fines of up to $100 for smoking in a vehicle containing anyone under the age of 18. But a traffic stop would have to be made for another offense, such as speeding, before a vehicles occupant could be cited for smoking.The smoking ban is the latest attempt by the state to shield people from the health risks created by breathing secondhand smoke. California already prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants, and within 25 feet of a playground. I think its awesome that California keeps cracking down on second-hand smoke, Behm said. Especially with Tahoe being on the border of Nevada where the smoking laws are so different its like a breath of fresh air coming back to California from state line. Associated Press contributed to this article.