Tag Archives: cell phones

Texting citations happen, but just scratch the surface

The in basket: Mathew Niblack e-mailed to say, “ This morning, between the hours of 10 and 11 a.m., I was walking  down Mile Hill Drive in Port Orchard, from McDonalds to California Avenue and I saw at least 20-25 people driving  and texting/talking on their cell phones.

“Is anything being done to stop this? I was walking against  the traffic and several times there were vehicles driving  towards me crossing the fog line. Is someone going to have  to hurt/killed before anything is done? There does not seem  to be any enforcement

of the law.”

The out basket: Matthew had sent his observation and question to the county sheriff’s office in late January, so they had a ready-made response for use in the Road Warrior column when he repeated them in his e-mail to me.

They said he was “absolutely correct,” and said any driver seen by an officer texting or holding a cell phone to his ear while driving can be cited under state law with a fine of $136.

“The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is acutely aware of these situations as you described… they occur all day, every day, throughout the  county on both city and county roadways and state highways,” their reply to Mathew read

‘For every stretch of roadway such as Mile Hill Drive, there are several dozens of similar roadways with the same violations taking place.  Deputies on patrol observe these actions frequently.  When we do, we try to take  proactive action when  possible.

“Is there a problem?  Yes.

“There are tens of hundreds more drivers who are conducting themselves like this than there  are available law enforcement officers to enforce motor vehicle code statutes.

“Do we conduct proactive patrols to specifically target distracted drivers? Yes, but not  on a frequent basis, as our personnel manning situation is not optimum.

“The  generally accepted ‘rule’ within law enforcement is for an agency to have two officers in its department for every 1,000 persons in the population.

“For the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office that would equate to having 340-plus deputies  on the department’s roster with a population of more than 170,600 in the unincorporated areas of Kitsap County.

“We can only ‘dream’ of having these many deputies for patrol and investigations assignments, which would include traffic safety  enforcement.

“The sheriff’s office currently has 113 total commissioned personnel (which includes the sheriff himself).  Currently our ratio of deputies to population stands at .66 of one officer per 1,000 persons in the population. You can readily see the

challenge!

“You asked, “Is someone going to have to be hurt / killed before anything is  done?  There does not seem to be any enforcement of the  law.”

“(In) 2015, sheriff’s deputies wrote 137 traffic infractions for distracted driving (cell phone use/texting). That’s not a lot given the number of violations that take place every day.  We could do better, but our deputies  typically are handling 9-1-1 response calls and are engaged  in responding from one call to the next without a whole lot of opportunity to hunt for distracted drivers.

“What are we doing about this?

“Now that the county is somewhat ‘officially’ clear of the recession, we have been  authorized by the county commissioners to begin recruiting (again) to fill the vacancies.

“Prior to the recession the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office  manning was at 128 commissioned personnel.  We’re slowly working at reducing the personnel shortfall, but  we can’t do it all in one year, or even in two or three  years.  It’s a gradual process.

It takes time and lots of funding to recruit, hire, train  and employ an entry-level sheriff’s deputy. Transfer  officers from other agencies don’t cost quite as much as they’ve already graduated from the six-month basic law  enforcement training academy, but

there is still a cost in funding and time.

“And… distracted driving is only one of a significant number of traffic safety issues that we  are tasked to enforce. Our most frequent complaint:  neighborhood speeding.

“The most serious need for traffic safety emphasis:  impaired driving enforcement. Why? Statistically, more serious injury and fatality collisions occur as a result of impaired driving than for any other driver action.”

Mathew thanked the office for the response and said, “I hope distracted drivers will be caught on Mile Hill soon.”

Cell phones and the hearing impaired

The in basket: As the July 1 deadline for enforcing the hands-free cell phone law approached last summer, Jerry Darnall of Kingston wondered about how his particular situation would be addressed. 

He is hearing-impaired, but doesn’t always wear his hearing aid while driving because it gets uncomfortable after a while and, more to the point, his “specially adjusted high-volume hand-held cell phone” produces painful feedback when he has his hearing aid in. He must remove it to use that phone.

But, he said, the wording of the law appears to exempt only those wearing hearing aids, “although I thought the intent by the Legislature was to exempt all ‘hearing impaired’ persons, not just those wearing hearing aids at that time.

“How much leeway is the WSP allowing for hearing-impaired cell phone users under the new law?” he asked. “What will I need to provide the officer as proof of disability if stopped for this infraction? Is the WSP/DOL going to provide some kind of sticker for the rear of my vehicles or license plate that shows hearing impairment?”

While I was seeking those answers from State Patrol spokeswoman Krista Hedstrom in Bremerton, I asked for an update on how enforcement has been going in the real world of the state highways here.

The out basket: Second things first, Krista says troopers in Kitsap County “have stopped 56 drivers for talking on their cell phones. Forty-three of them were issued infractions for $124, while the other 13 were given verbal warnings. 

It’s what’s called a “secondary infraction,” which means it can only be tacked on if an officer sees a primary infraction like speeding. Krista said, “Troopers are seeing a variety of primary offenses which go along with the cell phone violation. Speed and lane travel are the two main reasons, based on feedback from troopers.

“The majority of drivers are aware of the hands-free law,” she added. 

 “In reference to Mr. Darnall’s questions,” she continued, “yes, the law specifically states that you are exempt while wearing a hearing device. (It) makes no reference to hearing devices that are transmitted through the cell phone.  

“As far as the leeway that he is looking for…that is up to each individual trooper or officer who makes the stop.  And, it does not hurt to have a doctor’s note handy explaining his circumstances.  

“There is no sticker that would be available to put on your license plate advising of hearing impairment.” 

I suggested the Jerry get a visor mounted cell phone unit and about the same time Leroy McVay of Poulsbo e-mailed with the same suggestion. 

“Ear-mount Blue Tooth doesn’t work for me,” Leroy said. “Got a visor mounted unit at Costco for $39.95, works great! 

“Internal battery, plugs in just like cell phone. They only provide a car cord.  Another advantage is your wife can use it without messing with the ear piece; great if they have hearing aids. They provide an ear bud if you really need privacy.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IDing emergency numbers on a cell phone

The in basket: The way e-mails make the rounds these days, you may have seen the one about labeling phone numbers in your cell phone as ICE or I.C.E., for In Case of Emergency.

I just saw it for the first time, sent in by Clay Weyrick. It evidently originated with a British paramedic who had too often been unable to identify which number in an injured or killed person’s cell phone should be called to notify the person whom the phone owner would want to be told about such a crisis. Even calling a number labeled “Mom” can be a mistake if Mom is too emotionally fragile to deal with it over the phone.

The paramedic urges everyone to enter the best number and name it ICE, so emergency responders can make the key call to the correct person. If you have more than one, call them ICE1, ICE2, etc.

The out basket: You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot to say about such an idea, but urban legend debunker Snopes.com, has several paragraphs on the subject. 

Short answer: Snopes says it’s a true story and a good idea. BUT…

Use it in addition to, not in place of, more traditional ways of getting this word out, such as a card in the wallet near your photo ID. 

Even if they find ICE in a cell phone, responders often can’t be sure it’s the patient’s phone, and  it can be out of power or damaged. They might also not be able to get to a given phone’s preset numbers, given the variety of phones in existence. 

In any event, hospital personnel or those dealing with the patient after the paramedics deliver them are more likely to benefit, as they are the one’s who try to reach the family.

Snopes also said that e-mails saying an ICE entry will enable hackers to drain your minutes or introduce viruses ARE hoaxes.

Will hands-free cell phone law really help?

The in basket: Frank Haney of Port Orchard e-mailed last October after I wrote about some misunderstandings as to what the hands-free cell phone law will forbid and when it is effective, which is July 1.
I had debunked a notion my wife had overheard at a garage sale that Bluetooth, the wireless earpiece that lets you talk without holding a cell phone to your ear, would be illegal if worn in the ear next to the window. It won’t.
But Frank wrote, “I don’t know if your wife’s friend is really off-base with the Bluetooth idea. I think that right now with the law as it currently is, the Bluetooth is an illegal device while drive a motor vehicle in the State of Washington.
“How do I think this, you ask?, Well, here you go.
“In the State of Washington, it is illegal to wear headphones or ear plugs while operating a motor vehicle on the public highways,” Frank said. “Things like iPods, cassette players and such are strictly forbidden when used with ear devices that would block or hinder the wearer from hearing outside noise such as other vehicles honking horns or, better yet, emergency vehicles running code.”
The out basket: Krista Hedstrom, spokeswoman for the local State Patrol detachment, says “The Bluetooth wireless device is allowed by law because it only covers one ear and allows you to hear what is going on within your surroundings.  
“Earphones, on the other hand, go in both ears, not allowing you to hear what is going on – which is why they are illegal while driving. 
 “The hands-free law does not apply to those driving an emergency vehicle or tow truck, those reporting illegal activity or emergencies, and does not apply to a person using a hearing aid,” she added in an aside.
The hand-free law forbids only holding a cell phone to your ear while driving. You still can dial one or look down at one.
I think those who consider this some major breakthrough in highway safety are kidding themselves. My personal experience tells me it will make things worse.
My Bluetooth set won’t stay in my ear. The wire loop over my ear yanks it out. I’ve always worn one of the largest hat sizes, so maybe my ears are outsized too. Anyway, I have to fiddle with the thing as I drive to keep it in my ear. And making sure whether it’s turned on or not is another distraction.
A wire is even worse. It can get tangled up. Finding it in a dark car in motion is hard and risky, and then you have to get it into your ear or – Heaven forbid – plugged into your cell phone.
I know all of this can be avoided by planning ahead or having the ear piece in your ear before starting out. But I expect thousands of cell phone users to be fumbling around with their new ear pieces around July 1, especially during incoming calls, and that a spike in wrecks will result.
Our new Prius is Bluetooth compatible, meaning you hear the phone call through a speaker in the car, so that may not be so bad. But most cars aren’t.
Krista says, “The WSP encourages drivers to become familiar with the hands-free device they have purchased prior to using it, and know how it operates so that it does not take away from their ability to drive. There are several hands-free devices; the one that clips onto your visor seems to be popular.
“Many people choose to leave the hands-free device attached to their ear the entire time they are in the car, that way they are not struggling to put it in place once they get a call,” she added.