Southern California -- this just in

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Is California's hands-free cellphone law working?

December 30, 2008 |  2:04 pm

As most of you know by now, driving while tapping such messages as "r u alone?" and "don't forget tp" on your cellphone will become illegal in California on Jan. 1.

To put it another way, the Legislature -- in all its glorious wisdom -- took only a decade to decide that it's probably difficult for someone who is typing up messages on a 2-inch screen to be giving their best effort to driving.

The Legislature, perhaps to its credit, outlawed motorists from using hand-held cellphones and driving on July 1. But text messaging was excluded from that bill for reasons of political expediency -- the bill's sponsor thought it would make it difficult to pass. When the two cellphone laws passed (one for adults, the other applying to young drivers) and the public found out text messaging wasn't included, the righteous indignation led to the text message ban.

Will the bill work? It's hard to say. The California Highway Patrol has issued 44,531 tickets for violating the cellphone talking law between July 1 and mid-December. Here's a month-by-month breakdown through November:

July -- 7,854
August -- 7,123
September -- 7,891
October -- 9,097
November -- 8,188

The bulk of those tickets -- 14,451 of them -- were issued in the CHP's southern division, which includes Los Angeles County. To help put these numbers in perspective, the CHP issued 1,166,842 speeding tickets and 203,490 seatbelt violations in 2007.

I'm curious what readers think about the hand-held cellphone ban. Is it working? Are you seeing fewer people hugging phones to their ears than before July 1? The same? More? Want to be interviewed for a story I'm working on?

Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

-- Steve Hymon