Statistics show that traffic accidents linked to cellphones are on the decline. But the California Highway Patrol isn't buying it. After all, if you survived an accident caused by a cellphone, would you admit it?
And what about texting? That's an act of communication that actually lends itself to deceit.
"Many people try to camouflage it, they try to hold it under the steering wheel," said Officer Charmaine Fajardo of the CHP. "That makes them take their eyes off the road even longer."
Faced with growing public ignorance of the law, and apathy about its purpose, California lawmakers took action. You may not have noticed, but a bill was approved this week that adds some serious financial consequences if you use a hand-held device while driving or bicycling.
The first offense fine would increase from $20 to $50, if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the legislation. A second offense would cost $100. But it's the fees that are likely to get the most attention.
Added to the $50 first offense fine would be a so-called penalty assessment of $140, a state surcharge of $10, a court security fee of $40, a criminal conviction assessment fee of $35, an emergency air transit fee of $4, and a night court fee of $1. That's $280 altogether. And it would be more in Los Angeles County.
The CHP said all those fees with get people's attention. And that's what it's all about.
"A lot of times while we're stopping one person for it, we'll be driving by and seeing another person doing the same thing," said CHP Officer Brandon Sherman. "
But Los Angeles Defense Attorney Mitch Medy sees it differently.
"This is a classic example of revenue generation blowing something dramatically out of proportion, just to make additional revenue because the state has a budget deficit," said Medy.
But if money makes people stash the phone while driving, many law enforcement officials say it's a win-win.