Friday, June 29, 2007

365 More Days of Cell Phone Use While Driving

Contrary to an email hoax making the rounds, you'll still be able to be an idiot and drive next week with your cell phone pressed up to your ear.

July 1, 2008 is a different story. But you're safe for now, as the Daily News notes:

Under the state law, drivers will be prohibited from using handheld cell phones. First-time offenders can be slapped with a $20 fine; repeat offenders, $50. Commercial truck drivers and 911-dialers are among those exempt.

The California Highway Patrol said it also has received calls from worried motorists and will launch an educational campaign to warn drivers before July 1, 2008, when the law really takes effect.

That day, officers will start pulling over and citing cell-wielding drivers, Officer John Lutz said. But Sunday, no traffic laws or fines that affect the general public will change.

At least 15 to 20 people have called the author of the hands-free bill, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. The bill was signed into law in September. Normally, bills become law on the first Jan. 1 after they are signed, or sometimes on July 1.

Simitian said he designated an extra 18 months to give state officials more time to incorporate the new rules into driver's handbooks and inform the public — and give owners of mobile phones more time to adapt their technology.

The newspaper says cell phone dealers have noticed a spike in hands-free sales in recent weeks (they also saw an increase at the start of the year) as confused consumers believe the law starts this year.

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