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California drivers still texting despite law

California drivers are still sending text messages from behind the wheel, despite a state law banning the practice, according to an Auto Club study released Wednesday.

The survey, which sampled 4,000 vehicles in Orange County, found that 2.7% of motorists were observed texting at any given time. That's twice the rate surveyed in January 2009, when the state's ban went into effect.

Auto Club officials said the figures show the need for better enforcement of the law and higher penalties for those who violate it.

Drivers who are caught texting are fined $20 for a first offense, and no points are assessed to the driver's record.

A bill, SB1475, designed to strengthen the texting-while-driving ban by increasing penalties, including adding a point to driving records, was recently defeated in the Legislature.

In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes caused by distracted drivers -- many of whom were texting, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (55)

No lie: I saw a woman so busy texting she missed not one, not two, but three left turn green lights, all while the people behind her were leaning on their horns and the line to turn left was getting longer and longer.

We don't need police to "prevent" crimes that haven't happened -- nor can we afford it as a tax-paying society, or from the perspective of the individual "law-breakers".

If a person is using the phone and simultaneously driving when he or she hits another car, then the driver is liable. Enough said. Then, and only then, should a punitive measure be tacked on.

Am I alone in thinking this way? The entire movement to ban particular conduct while driving is a slippery slope, virtually unenforceable, and unfairly applied.

send them to jail!
1 day of jail time for each violation!

OMG! lol

I wonder how many readers texted these comments while driving?

To those who say "you can just claim you were dialing the phone", a quick check of the cell phone bill will confirm the date and time of the text messages.

It simple check phone logs void insurance in the case of an accident and jail the peson if they survive the crash. People have been pulled dead from cars here with the phone in their hand! seems a high price for "what's up" "Nothing!" "How about yu?"

I no longer text from my cell while driving due to this law. How-ever, i sure do email. There is a differance wright? Another loophole in the system.

I see it every single day, both as a driver and as a pedestrian. I feel disgusted that not only are people flouting the law flagrantly, but they are also endangering mine and other's lives. If you call them on it, as I have on numerous occasions, they feel you are violating their rights. Driving is a privilege not a right. Traveling on public roads or highways is a right, the former and the latter are NOT one and the same. Everyone thinks that they are the exception to the rule, the rule being that the majority of drivers who text and/or speak on a cellphone while driving are too distracted to drive safely. That follows the same logic as someone who thinks they drive just fine after 3 or 4 cocktails. I call that logic delusional. So many times I have come very close to being hit by another driver with cellphone to ear or texting on their cellphone, and I am very sure that I am not the only one who's experienced this. The fines should really start at least at $100 for the first offense. And the law enforcement officers should enforce the law more agressively.

Impound their phones for evidence. Make it a moving violation, that will jack up their insurance.

If people want to text while driving, let them text.

Those who kill themselves are doing the rest of us a favor.

Libertarians believe that the free market of ideas, as well as of commerce, will correct any mistakes.

Vote Libertarian!

Yea, txtin when drvin is bad n gets people hurt. Sry. Tryin 2 post dis before light trns green.

How do you know whether the driver is dialing a number (and planning to use her headset to talk), or changing a tune on the music feature, or checking an electronic map, all of which are legal?

You don't.

Now tell me how you are going to regulate all of these activities, when we can't even stop people from holding their phone to their ear and talking, which has been illegal now for quite a while, and which I see every day.

yeah and people are still driving drunk despite it being against the law! this article is useless!

The fine/penalty should be increased to at least $150-$200. The $20 fine is a joke. What makes me mad is that the Senate bill to increase fines and add a point to driving records was defeated in the Legislature. Why in the heck did that happen? Oh, I know...a lot of those people must owe Samsung or Motorola a favor or two or three.

Some people can talk, text, eat, drink, and do their taxes while they drive. I happen to be one of them: very safe driving record, last ticket was 1989. I don't care what the fines wind up being, I will still talk on a cell phone while driving. If I get fined, I will pay it and consider it a freedom tax. You want HBO and Showtime, you pay a premium. You want high speed DSL, you pay a premium. You want to see a movie in 3D IMAX, you pay a premium. You want freedom to talk on the phone, not wear seatbelts, smoke on the beach or ignore any other nanny law out there designed for the lowest common denominator, you have to pay a premium. I reluctantly accept that.

Quadruple the fines, Enforce the Hands Free law, but then again How can you when the people that are paid to enforce the laws are the ones breaking them too? Only agency that follows it is CHP, but as far as LAPD and Sheriffs hell Na

It's not just texting, I see drivers not paying attention, then notice they're holding a phone up to their ear. It's a real problem.

As if some need a cell phone habit to drive poorly?

It's true. The fines are MUCH too low to deter texters.

It would be nice if there was a way for the public to report violations to the police themselves. If you have a passenger in your car, have them snap a picture while it is happening. A picture that includes the plates will do. I'm not suggesting that people endanger themselves or others to get a picture, but if offending texters knew that other ordinary citizen were watching and had the means to report violations, perhaps that might curb it a little. Maybe after the first ticket or two.

I'm not at all down with police and how they treat people, but even I can't blame this one on them. Either the majority of people out there simply do not believe that using their cell phones while driving is truly dangerous, or they do and still don't care enough about the danger to stop doing it. What the heck are cops supposed to do about that in a state as big as CA? There are just too many people out there who don't give a damn about how what they do affects others around them.

Also, cell phones in their current iteration have not been ubiquitous until recently. They haven't been an everyday part of our lives long enough for us to have developed a collective etiquette for how everyone should use them. The technology is relatively new to us historically speaking, and we're still in that phase where we're amazed with what the things allow us to do. The cell phone is still the bright shiny new toy that our collective inner child can't look away from.

The technology will eventually evolve -- sooner than you might think -- to allow text input to happen without movement of hands from the wheel or movement of the eyes from the road. Also, people will eventually get over the shiny new toy faze. This current problem of a-holes killing people with their cars because they can't get over how cool their phones are is an unfortunate faze that will pass.

Catch me, catch me, catch me if you think you can. Yes i text and drive and i am proud to say i will continue doing so. It's very simple, it's nearly impossible for cops to catch us. We hold the phone below the window so unless they happen to pull up right beside us, they will never see the phone.

How about the police (and the politicians that enact these ridiculous laws) ease up on all the punitive enforcement and let people live a little. Fine drivers if they drive stupidly or get into an accident, but not for doing something while driving safely. Should we fine drivers with a cigarette in their hand too? (Answer: Only if they drive unsafely.)

I just saw a commercial for a new vehicle that the front dash contains being able to get online and surf, use twitter, watch television and all sorts of fancy "Non Watching the Road" doo dads.

Yea. Texting is a *big issue* with the biggest L.A. Eye Roll you can have.

I too think its dumb as all get out...but first lets concentrate on the small stuff, like oh...getting into a car crash with a guy who is trying to watch Family Guy driving home and changing lanes.

Crickets, I would be happy if there were check points along the highway for people drag racing each other like they are in The Matrix Two in Los Angeles.

Law enforcement is doing the same thing as well as the fire department. Since law enforcement does not follow the rules, why do you think drivers will?

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