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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So How Many Folks Are Nabbed for Yapping on Cell Phones While Driving? Your Guess is as Good as the SFPD's

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 6:15 AM

Is it possible to be more irresponsible than texting your underaged mistress to score you some drugs while driving a Corvair with infants and kittens wandering in the backseat?

While this sort of behavior might make the Examiner blotter, there's no way for the San Francisco Police Department to tabulate how many drivers are texting -- let along chatting on the phone -- while driving. They don't keep track; "Our system is archaic," says a police spokesperson.

Waylaying a stagecoach may have its own punch card in the SFPD's system; cell phone use or texting while driving does not. For laws that were passed to ostensibly make the roads safer, this lack of data is problematic. In many ways, the SFPD's attitude toward benchmarks mirrors the exclamation of the chief bandito in Treasure of The Sierra Madre: "Statistical methods of charting success or failure? We don't need no stinkin' statistical methods of charting success or failure!"

The California Highway Patrol, on the other hand, does keep track of how many drivers have been cited for speaking on a hand-held cell phone since a state law kicked in back in July of last year. They use an astoundingly high-tech device called an "Excel Spreadsheet," and one was  "e-mailed" to me by the CHP's Officer Hugo Mendoza.

How many San Francisco drivers are being cited is still anyone's guess, though. The CHP only keeps records on the level of its nine state enforcement divisions (the nine Bay Area counties comprise the Golden Gate Division).

Data on texting should roll around by February. Meanwhile, from July through earlier this month, 49,050 California drivers were nailed for yapping on the cell while driving; 8,418 of them were pulled over in the Golden Gate Division.

Incidentally, based upon our reading of the state law, it's illegal to hold a cell phone to your cheek and speak while driving -- but perfectly legal to speak into a Bluetooth earpiece while holding your hand on your cheek.

But that's just as well. The American Automobile Association reports that hands-free cell phones are no safer than the vintage model used by the twit illustrating this article.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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