How to catch illegal cell phone use by drivers

The in basket: Alison Loris wants to know more about the results of the publicized emphasis patrol in April to find and cite drivers texting or talking on their cell phones with the phones to their ear, both of which are against the law.

“I see more and more people ignoring the road while their attention is all for the phone,” she said.

The out basket: I, too, was curious about the emphasis patrol, and what tactics the officers used to spot texters and those on their cell phone that they wouldn’t in their every day jobs.

As reporter Andrew Binion noted in a Sun column shortly after the results were announced, it remains common to see people with their cell phone to their ear while driving, even after the emphasis.

I read a magazine article recently that equated use of one’s cell phone for texting with addictions like to drugs, alcohol and gambling, an irresistible impulse when the phone pings an alert of a new message incoming. Being behind the wheel doesn’t overcome that impulse, the article said.

I asked several of our police agencies what they did differently during the emphasis patrol and it appears to be mostly giving that offense a higher priority than otherwise. They weren’t making stops exclusively for cell phone infractions. They were extra officers on the road, working overtime.

They wrote 145 tickets for illegal cell phone use and 13 for texting while driving, a measure of the greater difficulty in seeing whether a driver is texting or just looking down.

They also cited 53 speeders, 22 for not having insurance, 12 for equipment violations, two negligent drivers, 40 for seat belt infractions, and one for not having a child properly restrained. They also just warned six for seat belt violations and two for child restraint problems.

Ten drivers with their license suspended and five without their license with them were cited.

Marsha Masters, Kitsap County Traffic Safety Manager, who compiled the figures, said a previous emphasis, a year or so ago, deployed officers in the High School Road roundabout on Bainbridge Island, where drivers had to slow down. Those using a cell phone improperly were stopped by other officers waiting nearby, alerted by those on foot in the roundabout

But that wasn’t done this time, she said.

State Trooper Russ Winger said troopers did not use any special method of detecting violations. “They simply patrolled and stopped violations as they observed them.

“We do, sometimes, set up in a stationary location where it is easier to observe violations such as cell phone usage and texting. The whole idea of the emphasis is to put extra officers on the road that are looking for these type of violations for a concentrated period and not subject to being called away for calls for service, collisions etc .

“We are not interested in using  ‘sneaky’ tactics to detect violations. Our officer are out there, in uniform and driving our regular patrol vehicles, which include unmarked patrol vehicles. I can tell you this for sure, there is no shortage of motorists using cell phones, texting while driving and doing various other distracted driving actions.”

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department said of deputies who took part in the emphasis, all replied that they participated in the emphasis patrols using just personal observations of drivers violating the (cell phone and texting laws).

“Nothing special, out of the ordinary or using some new, sophisticated technology…  just the standard Mark 1, Mod 0 deputy sheriff eyeball,” he quipped.

Deputy Chief Bob Wright of Poulsbo police said, “We didn’t use any super special thing during the emphasis. Some of the officers used plain unmarked patrol cars while one of the officers used a fully marked unit while they patrolled the city looking for people using cellular phones.”

And Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police said  We used two main tactics…. One, officers would patrol as normal and stop vehicles as they observed violations. Two, we also placed spotters at intersections to observe the violations.  The spotter(s) would then call out the violation to officers standing by in patrol vehicles.”

3 thoughts on “How to catch illegal cell phone use by drivers

  1. Drivers are going to continue to use their cell phones in some shape or form until there is a serious consequence to getting caught. You know like saying having your license suspended for a month to start. Getting a fine is not going to stop drivers from using them. I heard the other day on the radio where this lady confessed to getting stopped at least once a month for cell phone use and despite the fines she gets she says she will still talk on her phone. What is worse than someone with their phone to their ear is someone who is driving down the road with their knees on the wheel and both hands sending a text. Those are the ones that scare me the most. Drivers are not worried about getting caught on their phone cause despite the few that get nabbed and fined a little more than $100, most will never get caught until they destroy some other drivers life, by causing some type of accident. I would like to see officers from all law enforcement be designated to just nabbing cell phone infractions. Maybe let the Citizens On Patrol volunteers do it. But that is all just wishful thinking.

    Of course I would still like to know how come a driver is required by law to restrain themselves and every other passenger in their vehicle, but not their pets. I mean when did it become legal to drive down the road with a golden retriever in your lap or a purse dog on the dash in front of your steering wheel. I will sometimes see people driving with 3 dogs in their lap. How safe is that. Even worse is when a cop sees it and does nothing…

  2. n I agree with BearTex3. There is really no incentive to not text and drive, or phone and drive, or work on documents while driving, or play with pets while driving. I see many people holding their phones in front of their face (using speakers, I guess) rather than leaning against the drivers side glass to hold the phone to their ears. And the texting at 60+ on the freeway is pretty scary. Even people with their kids strapped in are doing it. I’m betting a car seat will not prevent serious injury to a child in a wreck at 60+. Their dogs will go through the windshield like a rocket, to become a red blot on whatever is in front of the car, or a smear on the road when the car stops suddenly, and these are the same people that have to take their dogs with them into every store because they love them SO much.
    He’s right, a mere $100 is no deterrent, obviously. I say boost it to $500, and confiscate the phone, if the lawmakers are serious. Obviously the anti-cell laws were a knee-jerk reaction when the phones came out – not a lot of thought was put into it. bLoys of lip service is given to making roads safer, but not a lot of action.

  3. Take the phones. Simple. The pain and expense of having to go out and buy a new phone will deter at least a few, I would think. We recently bought a new phone and it was nearly $400. worth! Ouch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Enter the word yellow here: