Democrat Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, the author of the original bill that banned the use all but "hands-free" cell phones for California drivers, has now introduced a law which seeks expand the hands-free phone law to bicyclists. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Simitian says the need to expand the ban to include bikes is necessary to get more people to comply with the laws. Are we closing a loophole in the law, or becoming irrelevant?
This author has been a strong supporter of the cell phone and texting bans that California passed in 2008. The fact that a driver using a cell phone, or texting, is as impaired as one operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol has been proven. That is dangerous.
The CHP indicates that they have written over 200,000 cell phone and texting violations since the law came into place. Local authorities have probably written an equal amount of violations. Yet, every day, in towns and on the freeways, we all see dozens of people of all walks of life using their cell phones as they drive. I personnally think that if the cell phone prohibition were effectively enforced on I-5 alone across the length of this state, we would no longer have a state budget deficit.
Now, perhaps things are different in Palo Alto than where I live in Redding, but I have yet to have seen a person using their cell phone while operating a bicycle in this area. I have seen several skateboarders using them, and numerous pedestrians that are not watching where they are going, but not a single bicyclist. I have seen several bicyclists wearing ear phones, presumably attached to their I-pods, but this is already illegal.
I am road bike enthusiast and in all the rides that I have taken, I don’t recall a single instance when I observed a fellow road biker using his cell phone while riding, though most of us carry cell phones for emergencies. In fact, where most of the road bike riding is taking place in our region, cell phone reception is lousy.
So, maybe more thought needs to be given into how many people are actually going to be "caught" by the new larger net, and the effects it will actually have. Does catching a cell using bicyclist really translate into more compliance by the driving public? Or, are we just making an important driver safety rule, already commonly ignored, look silly?