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Fewer Cellphone Tickets In 2014

Why are there fewer and fewer cellphone ticket cases in places like Lamont and Bakersfield, while as many as 70 percent of drivers in The Golden State may use their phones while they're behind the wheel?

First, the raw statistics. California peace officers wrote 359,252 cell phone tickets last year, which is a decrease of about 25 percent from the 2011 high of 476,105. Over 90 percent of these tickets were for talking and not texting, although some advocates consider texting much more dangerous.

Why are the numbers down? Some peace officers state that staffing levels are still not back to their pre-Great Recession levels. Others insist that the fine is too low and officers are pressured to write high-revenue speeding tickets. Still others suggest that motorists have learned how to use their phones and not get caught.

Since the first such law became effective in 2008, California peace officers have issued over two million cellphone tickets.

There may be another reason for the decline. Cell phone violations are hard to prove in court, since a Fresno appeals court eviscerated much of the law in 2014. That difficulty may make officers hesitate to write VC 23123 and VC 23124 citations, especially if the motorist was speeding or ran a red light. These infractions are much easier to prove.

Don't be surprised if the Legislature takes action on the cell phone laws, by increasing the fines and broadening the statutory language to include surfing the Web, using an app and all other cellphone use.