Bay Area peace officers declared victory after they issued citations to several dozen motorists, and harassed hundreds more, over a recent weekend.
The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, along with the Millbrae and San Bruno Police departments, issued 42 cellphone violations and 10 text message violations over the weekend that ended on February 1. Officers also issued 11 other traffic violations during the period of targeted enforcement.
Money from the California Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded the effort.
Kudos to these departments for focusing on something other than speeding tickets and red light tickets. Cellphone violations do not bring in as much money as red light and speeding tickets, and they are also harder to prove in court. But by encouraging drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their minds on the road, officers probably did more to promote safety than they would have done by ticketing those who inched up a bit too high on the odometer or mistimed a yellow light by a split second.
In addition to this deterrent effect, when these cases finally wind up in court, the motorists may have some effective defenses:
These legal loopholes may not be open much longer. The legislature may kill two birds with one stone, and not allow cellphones anywhere within the driver's reach, whatever the user is doing and whether the devices are on or off.
Mark Bigger is committed to giving individuals a voice when dealing with speeding and traffic tickets.