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Menlo Park: 55 ticketed for distracted driving

Original post made on Apr 8, 2011

Fifty-five drivers passing through Menlo Park on April 4 and 5 have been officially encouraged to think twice about using a handheld cell phone while driving, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 8, 2011, 11:51 AM

Comments (48)

Posted by Dharma, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Since 1998 the state has been telling drivers not to put a phone to your ear while driving, although our esteemed legislators didn't get around to making it law until recently. Yes, it is VERY tempting to phone (for some, to text) while driving, but it is SO dumb! I see drivers start to slow on the freeway or drift in the lane and know they're on the phone. At best, it causes the drivers behind to slow, often causing the p;hantom slowing of the whole freeway; at worst, it kill people including on city streets. Thank you MPPD and CHP.

Posted by been there, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Studies have shown that the hands free law has not reduced accidents. The conclusion is that the act of talking on the phone whether holding the phone or using a hands free device is the distraction that can lead to accidents.
Another study has found an increase in accidents in states where texting is illegal. In states where it is legal, the driver holds the phone high enough to see where they are driving while texting. Where it is illegal, the driver keeps their phone out of sight in their lap and not on the road.
This is another law with good intentions and unintended consequences. At least it is a net revenue generator. Thank you Joe Simitian.

Posted by Mical Brenzel, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Yes, thank you's to the police depts. for enforcing this law! I have seen people seriously distracted while typing or chatting on cellphones. I saw one a few months ago (a fender bender bumper crunch) because one driver was texting on her phone. There should be zero tolerance for this activity. If the message is really that important, pull off to the side of the road to retrieve it and reply, or get a chauffeur so you can text and talk while being driven.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

You shouldn't use a handheld cell phone or text while driving.

But you also shouldn't be doing your make-up, dancing, disciplining your children, filing your nails, reading the newspaper, flossing your teeth, eating lunch, putting on mascara or brushing your hair either.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I agree with POGO; I would add reading books and maps, shaving, curing eye lashes -- all of which I've seen.

Despite surveys and stats, which can always be manipulated, anything that distracts your attention from defensive driving, eyes on the road, and safe operation of your vehicle IS a distraction, plain and simple.

Posted by Athertonian, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:26 am

@ Pogo

You said: "You shouldn't use a handheld cell phone or text while driving."

FYI, it doesn't look like you are aware, but this is the law, not something we just "shouldn't do!"

Posted by Sally Cooper, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

It seems that, like speeding, many people continue with illegal behavior since they feel they won't get caught.
I can't understand why the fine is so low. It's hardly a deterrent. I was fined for turning right on a red light, having not seen the "no right turn" sign. The fine was $530.

Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

One of the most ironic offenders I saw was a guy driving a Stanford Driving School VW Beetle .... and the driver was SHAVING! I kid you not.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm

The law only applies to handheld phones and the fines are low because that is the only way Simitian could get the law passed. His first attempts failed because of lobbying from the phone industry. He passed some "foot in the door" legislation which is gradually being made stricter. No, it does not yet go far enough but we are making progress.

Posted by dennisd, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

As another writer suggests there are other equally dangerous acts like shaving putting on makeup or reading a map and these should be addressed. As one radio comentator said on the air its against the law to put a phone to your ear but not a banana.

Posted by al resurrecion sr, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 9:40 am

It's about freaking time.. Wonder what took the authorities a very long time to enforce this law..

Posted by R Singh, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

If driver call or answering a cell phone is illegal but a dog or cat is touch a staring in moving car is legal .Which one is most dangerous we know is Animal . So please review the Law and change the Strategy.

Posted by D Bailey, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:03 am

Driver should not take any phone calls, handsfree or not. Driving and participating in a phone call is statistically more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Posted by DecMurph, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

It's about frigging time that the law was finally enforced. People have been flaunting their cell phones while driving ever since this law went into effect. I only hope that other towns take it upon themselves to cite offenders.

Posted by Alex, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:19 am

This law is a joke! Lets face it, CHP and public sector knows they need more money to reduce the 25 billion deficit. I actually don't blame CHP, they are simply doing their job. They are just a tool for the public officials who like to find another way to tax the public and still feel good about themsleves.

As far as their cell phone study, has there been a study on the following:

1) Putting on makeup while driving
2) Talking to your crying kids while driving
3) Playing with the radio while driving
4) Having a heated discussion in the car
5) Drivers who are taking medications
6) Drivers who did not get enough sleep the night before

The truth is those things cause just as many accidents or maybe much more. However, it is hard to prove and give someone a ticket based on these actions. CHP and legislature was looking for an easy way to make themselves feel good a write another ticket.

The reality is less tickets means more layoffs for public employees. So next time you get a ticket think of it as a donation to public sector!

As I aleays say, give me a ticket and save the speech in regards to helping society! If you want to help society, reduce your pensions and stop wasting taxpayers money!

Posted by Last Angry Man, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:21 am

This is nothing more than another revenue producer for small minded towns.

How can a country, a government, any educated people allow such a law as holding a telephone be illegal while driving and yet




Posted by El Palo Alto, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:25 am

Like many laws, this law is based on speculation rather than specific, verifiable, factual findings.

The effect: wireless headphone manufacturers and small town governments taking the common man's cash. What's new, I guess?

Posted by G in Live Oak, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

I think it's GREAT that law enforcement is finally starting to ticket people after the law has been on the books for over a year now!
But again I see police on their cell phones all the time and should they be above the law? NO...they should be made to comply like everyone else!

Posted by MP Res, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:33 am

Where do you call to report the police officers who are talking on the phone?

Posted by Paul, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

I get around primarily by walking and riding my bicycle. That is, I am not wrapped in steel to protect me from distracted drivers. Almost daily I have a close call with someone who is on his cell phone or texting. I think that it is really arrogant for those drivers to put me in danger for their own convenience (or perhaps addiction). Nevertheless, I will continue to power my transportation by metabolizing lipids rather than by driving because of fear.

Posted by Little Joe Kelsey, a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:36 am

So if this traffic violation has the same effect as driving drunk for reaction time why are the penalities and fines not the same, $159 sounds like a fine given to a professional athlete, Lets slap fines on these code violaters and hurt them so they will think seriously about doing it again, I lost my daughter to a mother texting near her elementary school 3 years ago, and to this day has never even apologized!

Posted by Paul W, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:46 am

beenthere -

Anyone can say "there has been a study" on something. But without citing your sources, the words are meaningless. Who did the study, how many were polled, how was it done, how was the control set up, and what was the exact conclusion? For instance, I looked at my desk for a few minutes, and I've just done a study that shows arranging paper a certain way on your desk increases productivity. Not very good, I think.

Not that I don't agree that driving while on a cell phone is stupid. Honestly, I just don't understand why people don't buy bluetooth devices. The cost of a ticket in terms of time and money is a lot more than what you could get a high-quality earpiece for.

Posted by Rob, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:48 am

As already pointed out there are many other distractions that people engage in that don't seem to draw the same degree of legislative wrath as cell phones do. But cell phones are an easy target because, for some reason I don't understand, seeing someone on a cell phone (anywhere, not just cars) just gets some people irrationally riled for some reason. People see someone talking on a cell phone somewhere and it just pushes their buttons and sets them off. So someone is talking on a cell phone somewhere, what's the big deal to you? But when people do it in a car, well that's just an easy target to vent their rage at cell phone talkers.

But as for the hazard of talking on cell phones while driving, this law in reality seems absurd: it's not holding the phone to the ear that's the distraction, it's the talking on the phone, hand-held, hands-free, or otherwise, that's the real distraction. The brain evolved in an environment of face-to-face conversations, so talking to someone not face-to-face is not something the brain was evolved to process and thus takes more brain power away from driving. As for the statistical reduction in traffic accidents, I'm guessing that's due not to people switching to hands-free but more to people just not talking on the phone while driving as much. I mean really, does anybody really think that people are all switching to hands free and talking on the phone the same amount? I'm sure if an actual rigorous, controlled study were done which compared the same volume of hands-free calling while driving to hand-held calling, I bet the accident statistics would not differ by much if at all.

Posted by Brian, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

As Alex points out, there are many activities that are distracting. And, yes, there have been studies done. By the DOT, looking at accident reports over an extended period of time. Number one distraction causing accidents is adjusting the stereo in some way. Number two is eating while driving. People hate drivers talking on cell phones, but it is number 7 on the list. There are 6 things that have been studied that cause more accidents due to driver distraction, yet we have no laws about drive-thru restaurants or car stereos or make-up, etc. Flaming hypocrites at work, once again.

Posted by Richard, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

They should Confiscate the CELL PHONES TOO! Every Day I see a Driver causing a Traffic Problem and Hold a CP!

Posted by C.C., a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

Hey Folks -

Just remember: It's about your 'safety'... Or at least that's the axle they have you all wrapped around, no?

(And a few extra $$$ to help offset various budget gaps and such but hey - C'mon...)

You're all so concerned about who's 'complying' and who's not, and what you might do to rat out your fellow citizen so that he feels the same 'pain' that you do. Never mind of course that if you do not hang together, you will eventually All Hang Separately, but I wouldn't want to burden you with thoughts of something as 'Kook-Fringe' and trivial as the steady erosion of your Liberties by way bureaucratic Decree or anything...

So enjoy your morning coffee and the sense of freedom that it brings, and leave those trivial matters to your Statist Overlords who know what's best for you - and how to extract it from you at will.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

There is a law against all forms of distracted driving, but not specifically against each activity, just a general prohibition. If you are eating apple slices you may be able to do so without danger, but if your taco dumps hot sauce in your lap you may swerve all over the road. Rather than specify which foods may be eaten while driving, the resulting behavior is addressed: if you are doing something that causes you to drive dangerously then you are breaking the law. That covers eating, shaving, putting on makeup, etc. Using the phone is always dangerous so it is called out specifically. In New Jersey I understand it is illegal for a driver to take a drink of any liquid while driving.

Posted by James, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

Its about time that the cops inforce the laws! At least 2 times a week, I am almost hit
by a texting Idiot driving a car into my lane..
I wish there was a device that could taser the cell phones of these selfish idiots!

Posted by Greg, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:18 am

Funny, I see women doing makeup, texting and driving at the same's hard to enforce makeup violations and the cities need the $$$ so they found a way to grab the cash....don't run a red light or even roll thru a stop sign where there are cameras...$528 fine for me first time in the BART Station....Losers!

Posted by DavidM, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

Riddle me this Batman?
How can someone afford a $200+ smartphone and ~$80/month phone bill but CAN'T afford or think to pickup a $39 bluetooth earpiece.
Blows my mind.

Posted by Robert Taylor, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:42 am

People mentioned other things than cell phone use. Shaving reading, eating. All of these are considered illegal under the distracted driving law. If an officer sees you doing anything in your car and makes a determination that you are distracted, you will get a ticket. Kudos for the zero tolerance. The minimum fine of $159 is just that, minimum. Depending on court fees and assessments, it could be double that amount.
There is nowhere that using a phone for texting is legal. One person mentioned such, but even if you hold your phone at eye level to see where you are driving, you cannot possibly pay attention to both at the same time.
Greg mentioned he got a ticket for running a light. Well, if you break the law, you pay! Those other things he mentioned are illegal, they just have to get caught too!
To those of you that text or talk while driving, I have just two things to say: I hope you get caught [portion removed; name-calling violates terms of use]!

Posted by whatever, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:46 am

the people who agree have it all wrong...Alex and Last angry Man have it right...
you guys [portion removed; name-calling violates terms of use] if you think they are doing this for your well being. [Portion removed; see terms of use] if they need money just ask people for help instead of trying to steal legally. I do agree it's safer not to use it but at the same time it's no different than people looking at their gps or changing the radio station. Are they gonna outlaw all those? it just doesn't make sense. It only takes a split second for an accident so anything can cause those. the truth is they need money and they are going to take it, one way or another. Next think you know it'll be again the law to look left or right because that's a distraction too...then the people who agree to the cell phone law better go get your next brace cuz one false move you got yourself a ticket too...and remember keep your hands at 10 and 2 if you are real law abiding's just a stupid law...
this reminds me of the stupid seat-belt law, do they want you safe because they care of because they don't want to lose another tax payer...

Posted by E, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

Revenue producer only. People are such bad drivers around here, it won't matter what you do. It is just too easy to get a license in this country.

Posted by whatever, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

haha excuse the typos, if you're smart you can still read it...i couldn't afford a new keyboard because the gov is in the process of stealing my money...gotta pay that first you know...

Posted by Sheila, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:52 am

"G" and "MP Res", look at the law. Police officers are exempt from the law. Often, they need to use their phones while going to a call to exchange information that is not appropriate to talk about on a publicly broadcast radio. Also getting in and out of ones car over a hundred times a day makes for a lot of difficulty with bluetooths, wires, etc.
I am in agreement with a lot of posts that it's not the phone causing the problem, it's the overall distraction, whether it's a phone, text, GPS device, makeup, food, children, animals, or just plain stupidity. An overall law against distraction would be great, except everyone would argue about it because the citing officer would have to use discretion.
I wish the best of luck to everyone in driving and trying to stay safe with so many dangerous drivers on the road!

Posted by Sheila, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

So "Greg",

The cops or cameras who made you get a citation are Losers?? How about the genius (you) who rolled through a stop sign where there are cameras?? I'd say you're the loser.

Posted by Why?, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Seriously? Please. Hands free! I can't stand the people who think putting the phone in front of their face is different than holding it to their ear. If you really want to stop people from texting, make the fine bigger. Why are some of you contesting it? Please don't tell me it shouldn't be illegal. When you are looking at your phone, you are not looking for my child crossing the street,etc. PERIOD. I don't need a "study" to tell me it's distracting and dangerous, nor do i need a comparison to other distractions. Let's be frank. Smart phones are FAR MORE ADDICTING and create far more distractions that any of the aforementioned items. The shaving gentleman, while I don't condone that, I am guessing he shaves far less than someone "checks" their phone while driving. I want to check my phone too and have to stick in my purse and put it on the back seat so I am not tempted to reach for it. We have created a society that has become addicted and reliant on instant gratification and information. As Brian Wilson would say..FACT!

The bottom line is WATCH THE ROAD.

Posted by Scholar, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Include amorous activity on the list of driving distractions.

Posted by Hoop'in, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

OK so how many of you have seen this? A policeman in a police car is talking on his cell phone while driving? I personally have seen it a handful of times........ but as always, they're above the law.

Police officers are the worst offenders of the laws. I frequent a place that houses inmates, word around the establishment is that if it ain't nailed down.....expect an Officer to have it..hidden somewhere on the premises. It's true....which makes sense cause look at other people in positions of autority, is it human nature to take advantage like that.... in our world I guess the answer is yes.

Posted by Circle Jerk, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

This banter is hilarious reading. We've all seen people driving and doing something else that might serve as a dangerous distraction. How about ticketing every driver that has his/her little dog sitting on his/her lap? The fact is, even with earphones or Bluetooth devices, drivers are mentally impaired by having a phone conversation while driving. One's concentration is directed to the phone conversation and away from the task of driving.
Ticketing is a great way to deter this unsafe behavior, but 55 citations will hardly balance the city's deficit. Only reforming outrageous pention packages for city employees will bring MP back into the black. Heck, if the police want to bolster the cover, all they need to do is post motorcycle officers along the right hand lane of westbound El Camino (in front of Jeffrey's Hamburgers) during afternoon commute time and ticket all those who snake back into the thru traffic lane just before Ravenswood Ave.

Posted by Adam Selene, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Yep, this is just another moneymaking scam and erosion of our liberties by the tyrannical state oppressors. The entire C.V.C. is social engineering and should be repealed.

Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm

It is nothing less than stunning to follow the logic of some of the posts.

Many seem to suggest that since [shaving, smoking, or whatever] while driving isn't illegal, then cell phone or texting shouldn't be. Okay, which is it nuts to have laws around DUI?

Others seem to say that the law is wrong because it's a money-maker (and others, that the fines aren't high enough!). so this makes it wrong?

Studies or not, every day I see cars swerving, swaying, wreckless, too slow or too fast, with a distracted driver, cell phone in hand. My obversations are clearly not supported by studies. But you can bet I worry about my safety, and the safety of my kids playing near the street, or riding their bikes.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I agree that the logic of some of the arguments is rather ridiculous. They argue that it is incorrect to cite "phoney" drivers because there are other sources of distraction. Transfer that logic to medicine and you would have doctors refusing to treat cancer because the patient had other issues that could also possibly cause him to die. WRONG! You treat what you can even if it does not cover all possibilities.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I don't think anyone is arguing that one distraction is more important than another.

My point is that there are lots of ways not to pay attention. So even if you don't text or use your cell phone while driving, if you eat, read, shave, floss, curl, comb, file, discipline or pet, you're just as reckless.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

POGO, you are often reasonable but not this time. The point is definitely that some distractions are more important than others.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm


I'm sorry, but a distraction is a distraction. One is not more important than another. I drive over 35000 miles a year, while not scientific, I can tell you that from what I have seen eating, drinking, putting on makeup (especially) are all very distracting and there are studies which I think another poster mentioned that show talking on a cell phone is number 7 in distractions. The cell phone and texting laws are measures put forward by politicians to look like they're doing something while dong nothing. If the politicians really wanted to do something about distracted driving they would modify the distracted driving law to enumerate all or many of the distractions that drivers are involved with. If we want to truly address distracted driving we need to ACTUALLY ADDRESS THE PROBLEM, not just put "feel good" laws in place.

If people started getting tickets for eating, drinking, smoking, having their pet in their lap and all the other miriad distractions to driving, people might start taking "distracted driving" seriously. Part of the lack of compliance with cell phone and texting laws is that they are so clearly addressing such a small part of the problem is that people don't respect the law. If they don't respect it, they ignore it.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I am not trying to defend distracted drivers, but I think that distractions differ in their severity and duration. Politicians who take an "all or none" approach to issues like this usually end up with "none". Simitian started with a bill that he was able to pass over the objections of lobbyists and he is now tightening it up. Had he tried for the home run by explicitly listing and banning all of these items I don't think he would have gotten anything passed.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Donald -

I'm not saying Simitian's bill is flawed at all. I'm saying that drivers do lots of things that unnecessarily put others at risk. Many of those complaining about texting drivers think nothing of eating lunch from their lap at 50 mph.

I suspect we are in violent agreement!

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