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CHICO, Calif. The City of Chico Police Department and the local contingent of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) rolled out onto the streets on July 1 with the avowed purpose of getting the message out; i.e., the new ban on driving while using handheld cell phones will be actively enforced in Chico. This was the new California law’s first day in effect.

The Chico Enterprise Record reported that at least 10 local residents were cited by a Chico motorcycle cop and three CHP units. The reactions of the cited motorists ranged from surprised to angered to thankful. One unlucky driver had just traveled back to Chico after spending the l five years away in Ohio.

While we applaud the efforts of law enforcement to get the word out, we are uncertain about the effectiveness of this particular method. Traffic officers often report that while it is important to enforce violations of the Vehicle Code, the greatest effect of the “pull-over” is the impact it has on the drivers passing by. These drivers will suddenly look at their speedometers and assess if they are driving in a proper manner. In the case of the cell phone pull over, the passing motorists have no idea that the offense involves the now illegal use of a handheld phone.

Perhaps a more effective way of producing compliance with the new law is to billboard pictures of crashes and fatality statistics regarding cell phone related accidents. While this too may be overkill, the motoring public is profoundly ignorant of the dangerous consequences that accompany the seemingly innocent use of a cell phone, whether handheld or not, while driving.

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