SAN CLEMENTE, CA - JUNE 2: Catherine Singer dials a cell phone in her car as a truck approaches June 2, 2003 in San Clemente, California. Legislation that would require California motorists to use hands-free devices for cell phones beginning January 1, 2005 cleared a major hurdle when it passed the Assembly May 29. The bill is expected to pass the Senate, but Gov. Gray Davis has not yet taken a position on the measure. California would join New York as the only states with an outright ban on drivers using cell phones without hands-free devices, though at least six other states have some limit on use of phones in vehicles. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Petaluma police officers issued 483 citations during a six-month-long campaign to enforce a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving, more than three times the amount issued during the same time period a year before.
The law, which went into effect on July 1, 2008, prohibits the use of talking or sending text messages on a handheld cell phone while driving.
When the law was first enacted, officers gave numerous warnings and made education efforts about the safe and legal way to use a phone while driving, police said. Drivers are allowed to use cell phones as long as they are connected to a hands-free device.
In the last six months of 2008, Petaluma police issued 156 citations for breaking the cell phone law.
After launching an aggressive enforcement campaign in July, police issued 483 citations in the last six months of 2009. Officers issued more than 840 citations for breaking the cell phone law during the entire year of 2009, according to police.
"We have tried with patience and understanding to allow people time to understand the law and purchase hands-free devices," Petaluma police Lt. Tim Lyons said in a statement.
"The only way we are going to change the behavior of the motoring public on this issue now is aggressive and proactive enforcement through the issuance of citations to those who chose to ignore the law and the dangers associated with these violations," Lyons said.