CALIFORNIA

By BVN Staff Report

CHP to Issue Fines – No Warnings

Put down your cell-phone and listen up. As of July 1, you can no longer hold your cell phone and drive at the same time. The land of car-crazed, multitasking drivers is joining the long list of states with hands-free cell phone laws.

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Get Ready! July 1 is the deadline for ‘Hands Free’ cellphone driving. CHP will start issuing tickets to drivers talking without a hands-free device.

Two laws go into effect July 1. One requires drivers 18 and older to use a hands-free device while talking on their cell phones. The other bans drivers under 18 from using cell phones, text-messaging devices, laptop computers, pagers, walkie-talkies and handheld computers. Drivers are still allowed to make calls to emergency service agencies. 

The CHP warns it's talking and driving without a hands-free device that will get you in trouble. They've seen it all, everything from drivers text messaging, eating, reading, computing, applying makeup, shaving, fighting and even having sex in the car while driving.

"There's a lot of risk taking out there," said retired California Highway Patrol officer Michael Grier. 

California residents who drive and dial could be fined up to $76. With 23 million drivers, that could mean a lot of money for the state's financially strapped coffers. In the first three years of New York's hands-free law, the state raked in around $27 million in fines.

Wireless headset dealers say devices such as the Bluetooth speaker that attaches to your car's visor are flying off shelves.

"In the past 2 months, I'd say sales of Bluetooth and other brand devices have quadrupled," says Scott DeBard an AT&T clerk at Inland Center Mall. It's the same story for California based Plantronics, one of the nation's top headset manufacturers.

DeBard says consumers are waiting until the last minute to buy devices. Many people he said are ordering them free from websites like www.freeheadset.org.  

Still some people are likely to play the ‘catch me if you can' game says Grier.

The fine for the first violation of either of the new laws is $20. It's $50 for subsequent convictions. With the additional penalties, the fine can jump to an estimated $76 for the first offense and $190 for subsequent offenses, according to the CHP.

Statewide statistics show cell-phone use contributed to 2,702 collisions that killed 17 people in 2006 and 2007. During the same years in Riverside and San Bernardino counties cell-phone use contributed to 299 collisions that killed five people.