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Is California's hands free law working?

August 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It all started on July 1 and, so far, the sky hasn't come crashing down and the freeways are still as popular as ever. However, if you're wondering whether or not the hands free law is working, it would depend on who you asked.Remember the days when you had one hand on the wheel and the other held a cell phone, pressed against your head? There is a new name for that technique: Illegal. The California Highway Patrol has thousands of tickets to prove it.

"Statewide, we have issued 6,278 citations to motorists who have not complied with the hands free cell phone law," said Officer Vince Ramirez, California Highway Patrol.

Over 6,000 tickets may seem like a large number. However, that is statewide. The Highway Patrol issued over 60,000 speeding tickets during that same month. The CHP says that's evidence that most people are heeding the new cell phone law.

"Not really. Honestly no," said one motorist.

"I've seen a couple of people pulled over by police officers. And I know I'm not touching my cell phone unless it's on speaker," said Allison Fine of West Hills.

"I think it's pretty much the same. I see people driving ... I see people on the freeway all the time, you know, talking on the phone without their hands free device," said Driver Cesar Coronel.

The CHP says busted motorists can't plead ignorance. They say the state funded a six month, hands free awareness campaign earlier this year.

Economic hardship is also a tough case to prove. Hands free devices could cost over $100, but there are considerably cheaper solutions.

"A simple wire device, such as the one I'm holding, one that goes directly into your ear ... these things don't cost a heck of a lot of money. I mean you can get these for as little as 99 cents," said Officer Ramirez.

However, some are wondering if the new hands free law is saving lives. The CHP says it has only been one month, and it is too early to tell.

According to drivers, there is only one sure way to make the roads safe.

"Banning telephone use altogether in the car. That way people are more focused on driving rather than talking on the phone," said Coronel.

CHP says the program seems to be working well with teens. They are not allowed to use any communication devices at all while driving. CHP says they have only given out 61 citations statewide to teens.

 

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