Two years since the state law was ratified, new laws will take effect today that only allow drivers to talk on a cell phone with a hands-free device. The second law, however, prohibits minors from using any cell phone functions while driving.
Sgt. Michael Collins with the Pleasanton Police Department's traffic division said officers can pull over anyone with a cell phone to their ear. Yet, as with the provisional license law, police can't pull over anyone talking with a headset that appears to be under the age of 18.
Both local police and California Highway Patrol will be giving citations to violators. While the first offense base fine is $20, additional statewide fees and penalties could make the ticket as much as $76. A base fine for a repeat offense is $50 or $190 with additional fees and penalties.
Handsets cost anywhere between $15 and $150 from major electronics retailers, with the more expensive options utilizing wireless Bluetooth technology. The most common design has them fit around the ear, yet others fit inside the ear. Some newer model cars have the option to include Bluetooth.
Drivers are also allowed to use the speaker phone option, however, the push-to-talk radio features are not allowed.
Collins said the highway patrol began to monitor the number of collisions where a cell phone was in use. This data, he said, led to the new phone laws.
From both a professional and personal standpoint, Collins said he believes the new laws will help avoid collisions.
"I'm optimistic, like with any other law," he said. "A number of times I've been behind people talking on cell phones and driving around with their heads in the clouds. Driving a vehicle is a multi-task operation anyway."
The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there will not be a grace period for these laws, but citations are always up to the discretion of a police officer.
Collins echoed that sentiment, adding that being strict about enforcing new laws has a positive effect. For example, he said kids in Pleasanton are conditioned to know they must wear a helmet when riding a bike because of the active enforcement.