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Up illegal cell phone use while driving fine to $1K

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POSTED April 4, 2009 5:56 a.m.
Enough is enough.

If the California Legislature really wants to eliminate the deficit, they should hike the fine for holding and using your cell phone while driving to $1,000.

The state could go from deficit to surplus faster than you can download the theme song to the old TV show “CHiPS.”

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of close calls between motorists and other drivers preoccupied with yakking on a cell and turning into traffic. It had been a good 19 years since a personal close call with a driver using a mobile phone while driving until this week. I almost got nailed twice by people paying more attention to talking on their cell than driving.

The first encounter with a mobile motor mouth was in 1990. I was cresting a fairly steep hill while bicycling on a narrow country road that also happened to be on blind curve. I was in the middle of my lane when a woman driving a Mercedes convertible and talking started coming around the corner while paying more retention talking than driving. I can still remember the look on her face, hear her scream and recall how she quickly dropped the mobile phone from her right hand and steered sharply to the right. She ended up missing me by about two feet. Had she been going a bit faster when she saw me it would not have been pleasant.

This past week, I had two close encounters. The first was at the Yosemite Avenue entrance to the Chevron gas station at Spreckels Avenue. I was turning right off Spreckels into the station when a driver came toward me talking away and not paying attention to where she was going. I came to a complete stop well on my side when I saw her and she kept heading right toward me steering to the far left side of the driveway. I tapped my horn; she looked at me, and then swerved to the right.

I’ll admit she was a complete lady. No finger, no cursing, and she kept on talking as she drove by.

The other incident was Wednesday outside the Manteca Library. I was parked on Center Street and was going to get in the driver’s side. I noticed two cars coming so I waited virtually flush against my Escape. The first driver went by with at least six feet between them and me. The second driver actually started drifting toward me. I pushed back into the side of the car and she kept right on talking and drifting to the right without even seeing me. Once she got past me by a few car lengths she had driven into the parking area near the curb and the corrected herself and got back into the travel lane. Pretty lame driving considering the width of Center Street.

Again, the driver was completely oblivious to the fact she had came awful close to hitting me.

Then to top things off on Friday afternoon I pulled into a driveway at Costco just as another vehicle was going around a red Jeep Cherokee that appeared to be stalled in the travel lane while blocking access the parking lot lane where I wanted to turn. As I pulled closer to where she had stopped I could see she was talking on the phone. She got it half right. It would have been nice if she had pulled over and gotten out of the way of the drivers behind her and also hadn’t blocked an interior driving lane.

The amount of people wantonly ignoring the law is mind-boggling. Public safety personnel on the job, by the way, are exempted and can use a cell phone while driving.

It’s time for a couple of blanket enforcement days where traffic officers are assigned once or twice a week to primarily go after people holding a cell phone in one hand and driving in the other.

Inattentive driving is just as dangerous as speeding.
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