Put it down and keep it down!
Last month was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. We all know by now that driving while talking on a cell phone not in a hands free mode or worst yet texting is illegal and as dangerous as or more so than driving while intoxicated. Yet many folks feel that they are superior drivers fully capable of multi-tasking while driving. They are delusional as numerous studies as well as your personal observation of other “superior drivers” prove otherwise. We have all witnessed the erratic driving of people driving while holding their cell phones. This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while. Almost every cyclist I know has either had a bad experience with someone on a cell phone or at least knows someone else who has. So when I am riding and politely ask someone to put their phone down and they respond that I should mind my own business the answer is so long as I am on the road with them it is my business.
Last weekend while riding I asked a driver stopped at a light to please stop texting and put his phone down. He responded politely (for a change) that he was only texting while stopped. I informed him that even while stopped at a light he was considered to be driving and was violating the hands-free law (California Vehicle Code 23123). It occurred to me that his maybe a common misconception. So let’s help end this fallacy.
California appellate courts have ruled that using a mobile device to make a phone call not in the hands-free mode is illegal even when stopped at a light. A lawyer tried to argue that he was not technically driving while stopped at a light when he picked up his flip type cell phone and was dialing a number for a quick call as the motorcycle officer who citied him pulled alongside his car. That argument did not work at his trial or again on appeal, because you are driving even when you are stopped on the road with your motor running waiting for a light. See, People v Nelson (2011) 200 Cal. App.4th 1083. The only exception to the law requiring hands-free calls for drivers are calls to a medical provider, police, fire or other emergency services agency.
As always please let me know what you think. If despite my safety tips you have been injured in a bike accident or know of someone else who has and can use legal representation, feel free to contact me at Bikelaw@att.net. Also if you have not already subscribed to my portion of this site please do so by touching the rectangular, orange colored Subscribe to Author button below.