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Palo Alto police focusing on distracted drivers

Original post made on Apr 4, 2011

Palo Alto police will be extra vigilant this month in citing drivers who are texting or using hand-held phones behind the wheel as part of a nationwide "Distracted Driving Awareness" campaign.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, April 4, 2011, 2:23 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by Concerned Mother, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm

THANK GOODNESS! I'm tired of almost getting run over by stupid drivers on their phones or looking down at their phones while turning. I have two children who I walk around with a lot and am also a runner/biker and there have been several incidents where I've had to jump for my life. People don't realize that they're driving BIG HEAVY METAL DANGEROUS MACHINES! I never talk on my phone while's more important to pay attention and not kill someone then chatting with friends.

Posted by scam, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

If using a cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, why aren't the penalties the same? Distracted driving laws are a scam.

Posted by Al, a resident of Barron Park School
on Apr 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

IMO, cops need to look for folks putting on make up more, changing the radio/cd's, and eating.

Big difference between talking and texting. texting is bad, talking not so much.

And cops should be mandated to use turn signals and to make complete stops on stop signs and red lights.

No one is perfect, yet I would get a ticket; who oversees them?

Posted by Greg Anderson, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I was on southbound Middlefield Rd. this morning trying to take a left turn onto Charleston, and a woman in a white SUV caused everybody to miss the left turn light because she was sitting there, texting. Forget a fine, these people need to go directly to jail.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:22 pm

This is good news. There are some terribly distracted drivers here in this area. It was one of the first things that we noticed after moving here.

BTW, does anyone know why some drivers stop 6-8 car lengths behind the drivers in front of them while at red lights or stop signs? I thought that this might be the law...but it wasn't in the handbook.

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

ALL CITIES should watch out for and ticket people on their cell phones. People are blatantly on cell phones, making no effort to hide the fact.
The fine should be MUCH,MUCH higher.
I agree that police cars rarely use their turn signals.
A City of Palo Alto truck nearly ran into me taday, he was changing
lanes and did not seem to care that I was in that lane.

Posted by OVAY, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Too bad the Palo Alto officer who recently crashed and knocked over a power pole on Alma while talking on a cell phone won,t be prosecuted. Why is it that Joe Simitian's law did not include law enforcement officers from talking on cell phones while driving?

Posted by call 911, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

The police say to call 911 if you see a suspected drunk driver. Since talking on a cell phone is just as dangerous as driving drunk, please also call 911 if you see a driver talking on a cell phone. You could save someone's life.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Nothing distracts my driving more than a police car behind me.

Posted by fireman aj, a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm

OVAY, this is just Joe the joke and the CPA in a circle jerk/

Vote NO ON JOE.... Joe must go...

Posted by ?, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm

OVAY, where did you get info that the officer who crashed was talking on his cell phone? Thats an assumption not supported by any evidence. Why is it popular to voice annoyances with cops on this website?

Posted by Good!, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Ever notice how long it takes drivers to begin driving once a light turns green? Most are reading their texts instead of looking at the light. I have missed green lights because the cars in front of me have taken too long to move.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I, and many drivers, prefer to wait until we can be absolutely sure that no vehicles are jumping the red light before starting to move on green. There are many late crossings and I don't want to be hit by one.

Posted by Good!, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:25 pm

@Driver: Yes, the first car is the guinea pig, but the following cars still take too long to move, which means they are reading texts or emails. If one reads a text or email, at least hold the device so the green light is within the line of vision too.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:01 am

The penalties for using a cell phone while driving should be as severe as for DUI. The cell phone as virtually eliminated the concept of watching the road for some drivers, and has seriously impaired the driving of numerous others. I see on a daily basis drivers who don;t notice that a red light has changed to green even after angry honking from the drivers stuck behind them-they are too busy and distracted texting, dialing or talking on their phones. Sudden slamming on the brakes because a distracted driver suddenly realized he/she are about to hit a pedestrian, bicycle or another car has become the second most common noise in town, after leaf blowers.

Posted by Eyes-On-The-Road-Please, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

> The penalties for using a cell phone while driving should be as
> severe as for DUI

Alcohol is involved in a significant number of accidents, and an even higher percentage of fatal accidents. Cell phones, on the other hand, have not been implicated as a significant contributor to accidents (in the aggregate, and in virtually no fatal accidents.

So .. this suggestion of promoting cell phone while driving to that of a DUI is quite "over the top".

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

"Cell phones, on the other hand, have not been implicated as a significant contributor to accidents (in the aggregate, and in virtually no fatal accidents".

Not sure where you got this information. There are numerous accidents and fatalities caused by cell phone use during driving. Unlike DUI, where the alcohol level is often checked after an accident by the police, vehicles are not searched for cell phones after an accident and the verification of their use during an accident is much harder and more complicated to prove. Otherwise, they are dangerous and deadly as DUI.

Posted by distracted driving kills, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Watch this video (produced by AT&T) where kids discuss their experience with using cell phones while driving. One of them even admits to killing a bicyclist while sending a text message. These kinds of killings are frequent, with victims being including innocent people like other drivers, pedestrians, etc. Web Link

Posted by Driver, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Distracted driving is dangerous and can be a killer. We have had distracted drivers for years, drivers putting on make up or shaving, drivers reading maps or other written material, drivers distracted by passengers including children, drivers eating, etc. What has become worse is that now we have even more distracted drivers than ever due to phone use (whether handheld or not) and texting.

We have also had DUI for years, both alcohol and drug related.

The difference is that any driver getting into a car has the potential to become distracted - even by a billboard on the side of the road. Cell phones are abomination in the hands of drivers and it should always be turned off or placed in the back seat when the driver is alone in the car. All distractions should be treated in like manner.

However, a DUI driver is such when getting into the drivers seat and should not be there in the first place.

A distracted driver is more likely to be dangerous because of carelessness. A DUI driver is not only dangerous because of slow response and reactions, but dangerous because of the likelihood of deliberate dangerous actions like racing, showing off, or thinking they are a superior skilled driver than all the others on the road.

These are very different dangerous driving scenarios and should be treated as such when caught.

Posted by Stella, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I am shocked by the AMOUNT of distracted driving I see on a daily basis. It is an epidemic! People are openly chatting with cell phones next to their ears (some with sparkling or neon colored covers too) while they drive. No shame? No clue about the law ?

Today I saw a driver texting while she was about to make a right turn onto a major intersection (it was in San Jose, at the corner of Winchester and Stevens Creek by Santana Row so this is not just a Palo Alto problem).

Nayeli: I have been baffled about the huge car length gaps for years. People seem to want to build extreme safety barriers in front of them (probably because they are texting) at the expense of everyone elses time. This causes unnecessary traffic congestion too.

Posted by John, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm

"Sudden slamming on the brakes because a distracted driver suddenly realized he/she are about to hit a pedestrian, bicycle or another car has become the second most common noise in town, after leaf blowers." - Dramatic much, Daniel?

"A new study from the nonprofit Highway Loss Data Institute found that rates of crashes before and after the landmark law took effect in 2008 have not significantly changed. It also found that the trend of California's crashes before and after the law followed that of neighboring states -- like Arizona and Nevada -- that do not have bans on hand-held phones."

I think the community would benefit if PAPD would share their data on the topic...aside from the "sudden slamming of brakes"...How many collisions/fatalities have been reduced by PAPD's enforcement?

Posted by doug, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm

There is a FREE app called that prevents texting and driving at the same time. Give it a look at

Posted by turn it off, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Unless the cell phone carriers are going to build the "stop texting" feature into new phones, what's the point? Won't idiots just choose to ignore it? Then what is the difference between this app and just turning your phone off when driving?

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 12:35 am

OK, I'll just come out and say it. It's not cell phones, drunk driving, eating make-up, or anything else. There are just some people out there who drive when they are just too stupid to understand how the rules of the road work, and how to do it - what needs to be paid attention to, and what priorities need to be to not run into or inconvenience other drivers.

I don't do as much driving as I used to, but even if I so much as get in my car to go the store, downtown or across town there is rarely any trip I take no matter how short where I do not see a lot of complete idiocy on the part of other drivers.

I'm not saying I'm perfect, I make mistakes too. We all do annoying things and make mistakes. We all day dream and sometimes do not accelerate away from the green light as fast as we could. A certain amount of that is normal and will not lead to any harm.

But when people are behaving stupidly, texting while driving, eating, there are all kinds of things people do that affect their driving, unless they are paying very close attention to what they are doing they will make that big mistake sooner or later. People do not seem to know how to pay attention to what they are doing anymore.

I confess, in my younger years I would talk on the phone, smoke, drink, eat, change the radio, roll down the windows on the other side of the car (before motorized windows), reach into the back seat, whatever ... and I never had anything go wrong - never had a problem. I'm not proud of it. I know I can do it, but I would not do it again out of respect for the law and others I guess I think about that more now than I did then. For me I don't think it has made me any safer, but it if makes the state feel better, so be it! ;-)

But I knew people who did the same thing and constantly had problems. Getting tickets, accidents, drive off the road, get honked at, etc. They just do not know how to focus and plan their immediate actions so as not to have problems.

Now these majority morons I'll call them have so much to do in their cars. Most of them simply cannot handle it, and I see it everywhere, absolutely everytime I drive. So because of them all the rest of us have to stop talking on cell phones.

I am probably overbearing type A driver, if I see someone reading or not paying attention I will lightly tap my horn even before the light turns green ... I don't like to honk outright at people.

Today, I was heading into downtown from Alma from the South. On Hamilton and old man was walking across the street after the light had turned green the other way. Cars were actually driving through the crosswalk as he was trying his best to get across the street. That's another thing ... people do not know the law and their responsibilities either.

What the hell is happening in this country with people anyway?

I have to think that if we ticketed appropriately and held to the rules and took bad drivers off the road, we would not have a problem. But the thing is today everything is corrupt. Rich people get off on technicalities and laugh at the law, and then everyone else does too because they want to pretend they are powerful as the rich.

Society is just plain falling apart, and when that is on the road it is more annoying, adnagerous and visible than anywhere else.

Posted by turn if off, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

If people are still talking and texting on their cell phones despite these laws, when we need to increase the penalties and enforcement until they stop. Enforcement is just too lax right now.

Just yesterday, I saw a girl speed through a red light while holding a cell phone to her ear.

Posted by anon, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

It was my hopes the fine would have been $1000.00 per offense and one point on your driver license from the beginning.Maybe a few grand a day will curtail these fools. It's time to crack down of these idiots once and forever.

Posted by scam, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

I hope that this wimpy law is just a "grace period" to help educate drivers about their dangerous behavior. Make the penalties for cell phone driving the same as for drunk driving next year.

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