Old driving habits can die hard

The new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 are designed to make the roads safer by bringing the driver's focus off technology and back onto the road. However the laws will only make it safer if drivers comply and, according to Sgt. Mark Slater of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, old, bad driving habits die hard.

The new law, SB 28/Simitian that went into effect last week “makes it an infraction to write, send or read text based communication on an electronic wireless communication device, such as a cellphone, while driving.” According to the DMVwebsite, it was designed to fill a loop-hole left in an earlier law implemented in July. That law required motorists who talk on a cellphone while driving to do so using a hands-free device.

“We haven't given out any texting tickets yet,” said Slater. “We don't see many texting [drivers] in our area.”

Motorists who talk on the cellphone while driving is another matter, Slater added. After the hands-free cellphone law was implemented last summer, he noticed a dramatic difference in drivers using both hands to drive.

“But now we do see people back on the phones,” he said. “I just saw two people drive right in front of the station using their cellphones [without using a hands-free system].”

Slater said deputies will be looking for those who violate the law, including those who think it is safe to text at a stoplight or stop sign. “The law applies to all public roads,” Slater said. Moving or at a stop light, texting is a distraction, he added.

Slater suggests that if a driver needs to text or if talk on their cellphone and does not have a hands-free unit they should pull over and legally park their car. He is concerned that many feel the cellphone law is something drivers can ignore. “We are seeing people reverting back to their own habits,” he said.

Fine amounts can vary according to the officer's testimony and where and when the driver was ticketed.

“The other law of concern deals with the positioning of a portable GPS (global positioning systems) in cars,” Slater said.

A new law restricts where the system can be placed on the front windshield of a vehicle. The law restricts a portable GPS to be placed within a seven-inch square on the lower passenger side windshield or on a five-inch square on the driver's side, but not under the rearview mirror.

The DUI Probation License Suspension, AB 1165 Maze, law concerns drivers on probation for driving under the influence.

The law gives the DMV the authority to suspend a driver's license for one year under this standard. It also gives law authorities the right to issue a notice of suspension and impound the vehicle of a person who is driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater while on court-ordered post DUI probation.

“This is a zero tolerance law,” Slater said.

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