New cell phone law puts hands at 10 and two |

New cell phone law puts hands at 10 and two

Dan Thrift/Sun News ServiceNew cell phone laws are in effect.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants California drivers to have both hands on the wheel.

Beginning July 1, 2008, drivers in California will need an ear piece or speaker to use their cell phones in the car under a bill signed Friday by the governor.

A first offense will be punishable by a $20 fine, while subsequent violations will carry $50 fines. Calls made to emergency-service providers are exempt.

“The simple fact is, it’s dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving,” Schwarzenegger said during a bill-signing ceremony at an Oakland hotel, citing highway accident figures. “So getting people’s hands off their phones and onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in road safety.”

Cell-phone use is the top cause of accidents triggered by distracted drivers, according to California Highway Patrol statistics dating to 2001.

“There are a lot of distractions and we can’t restrict everything, but this is another to way to keep our roads safe,” said Truckee police Chief Scott Berry.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said new law would allow drivers to “have both hands free to control the vehicle during those split seconds that make the difference between life and death.”

The bill does not outlaw the use of hands-free phone accessories such as ear pieces.

“A lot of customers don’t even know that [the bill] passed, so I’ve been telling them about it when they come in, and reminding them to choose a phone that’s Bluetooth capable when they upgrade,” said Terry Knez, a salesperson for Jetcomm Cingular in Truckee.

Cell phone companies could benefit from the new law, she said, because it is likely that sales of hands-free accessories will increase, possibly dramatically.

The law will allow drivers of commercial vehicles to continue using push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011.

” The Associated Press contributed to this report

Barb Huff, Loyalton

“Hands-free is a good idea. It makes people more aware of their surroundings, so hopefully there will be fewer accidents. I see people on their phones all the time and think, ‘can’t you get a head set for that?’ I use the speaker phone (in my car).”

Jenna Baehler, Truckee

“There’s many things that cause accidents. Are they going to ban putting on Chapstick? What if there is an emergency and I need to call home? I have to pull over? My phone is attached to my head, so [the law] is not OK with me.”

Matt McKinney, Truckee

“I heard about it on the news and the first thing that went through my head was ‘wow, our governor has nothing to do in his spare time.’ Cell phones are a part of peoples’ lives and they are still going to use them.”

Tom Martin, Rancho Cordova

“I think that it should be more than a $20 fine. It should be more like $250 or $500. I’ve got a cell phone, but I can answer it later, or let my passenger do the talking. It’s very unsafe, even if it’s hands-free, because they’re not paying attention.”

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