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Opinion: DUIC: Driving under the influence of cellphone

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The newest behavior in driving under the influence of cellphone is a strange pose in which motorists seem to think they’re not really using a hand-held phone if they hold it horizontally several inches in front of their faces. How they see this as more legal than holding it up to the ear is anyone’s guess; from their frequently loopy behavior -- driving too slowly, weaving, turning and changing lanes without signaling -- it’s no safer either.

Would a much bigger fine help? Quite possibly, assuming there’s enough law enforcement on the streets to actually write some tickets. Studies have shown how dangerous cellphone conversationalists are behind the wheel, whether they like to talk or text. Of course, few people who still use their phones in the car think they drive dangerously. A lot of drunk drivers think they can hold their liquor too.

So it’s hard to object to higher fines for using hand-held phones while driving, as the California Senate just voted to do, from a current low of $20 to a high in the hundreds of dollars. The existing law has certainly cut way down on cellphone use while driving, but even so, don’t you find that when you pass an annoying driver, most of the time he or she has a phone up to the ear -- or held horizontally by one hand above the steering wheel, as though it might start levitating?

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--Karin Klein


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