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Police chief changes view on cell phones


The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has pulled back a report to legislators on the role of mobile phones in traffic accidents after learning it may have drastically understated the problem, says a recent Los Angeles Times article. CHP commissioner Dwight O. Helmick said he has changed his view on cell phones and now believes California should permit drivers to use only hands-free equipment. A bill is being introduced next month in the Legislature for the third time. Helmick had previously advocated against it. "After looking at the data. I was absolutely amazed at how high the cellular phone [accident rate] was. There is an easy fix for this, and that is requiring equipment that would make it hands-free," Helmick told the Los Angeles Times recently.

The report counted only 913 accidents in 2001 in which police officers across California had cited cell phone use as a cause. Three of those accidents involved fatalities, and 423 caused injuries. However, an L.A. Times analysis of statewide traffic accident data showed that the total would be far higher if it included all accidents in which the driver responsible for the crash was talking on the phone. Officers began collecting these numbers in April 2001, Helmick said, at the urging of the Automobile Club of Southern California. These figures show that at least 4,699 accidents were blamed on drivers using cell phones, and that those accidents killed 31 people and injured 2,786. In addition, these figures were for only nine months of the year. The total number of accidents involving cell phones could be well over 6,000 for the full year.

The CHP he report was sent to Gov. Gray Davis last week for his approval before being released to the Legislature. It was apparently pulled back so that CHP statistics brought to his attention by The Times could be included.

"It's unclear why so many officers did not fill in the appropriate box on their accident reports for cellular-phone distraction when the driver responsible for the crash was using one at the time," says the L.A. Times article. "They may have been discouraged from making that judgment by instructions from the CHP. The activity should be verified by [a] witness, involved party statements, and/or physical evidence before documented as an associated factor [driver distraction in causing an accident]." Read the LA Times article (Free registration required)End of Article

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All Comments (10)

Showing 1 - 10 comments

San Diego,

Is there a website where we can report license plate numbers of drivers talking on cell phones?

Deven,

It's simply impossible to drive and talk on the cell phone SAFELY. It's not your hands that are occupied that causes the problem; your feet are occupied too. It's your mind that occupied that is the problem.

I walk alot here in LA and have to jump out of the way of drivers on their cell phones alot that don't even see me in the middle of the crosswalk.

Marisa,

im a start putting a banner around my car saying: GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND START DRIVING BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEONE IDITOS! im sick and tired of people driving really slow and when i pass them there on there cell phone talking or texing! I'm sick of it!

traffic guy,

Interesting that the article noted reporting instructions from CHP which created the originally faulty stats.

Gjergji X.,

talking on the phone and driving at the same time is not good at all, because you can hit someone and there you are laying on the top of you steering wheel, dead. its not only you that is going to die, what about other peoples lives. bad conversations with your mom,dad, girlfriend, boyfriend, or whatever, can distract your driving and hit someone because you were going fast or lost control of the wheel, so get off those cell phones when you drive, its for your own safety.

Claire,

DRIVING AND CHATTING AT THE SAME TIME NEEDS TO STOP! SAVE YOUR IMPORTANT LITTLE CONVERSATION TILL LATER! UNLESS YOU ARE BEING CHASED BY A SERIAL KILLER IN YOUR CAR OR THERE IS ANOTHER EMERGENCY LIKE THAT GET OFF YOUR DAMN CELL PHONE!

Bob,

In the past 10 years the use of mobile phones by drivers has exploded exponentially. However, I don't see any exponential increase in crash rates, or any real increase at all for that matter. I suspect the mobile phone problem is largely anger at other motorists, with the phone as an excuse.

Dan Gleesack,

I THINK ALL OF THESE MORONS SHOULD STOP TALKING ON THEIR DAMN CELL PHONES BEFORE THEY KILL MORE PEOPLE!!!!!!!

Kelly,

I believe that it is extremely dangerous to drive while using a cell phone. Many people believe it isn't. On the contrary, I find that it is. Nobody has the ability to clearly focus on the road and on the conversation at hand. Especially if it is heated or exciting. While the whole cell phone situation may not die down anytime soon, I find that the laws against cell phone use are put in place for a good reason. Unless there is a serious emergency, what could be that important that you can't wait til you are fully stopped and off the road to make a call?

Mason,

i believe that people should stop talking on their cell phones while driving.
CELL PHONES=DEATH


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