State study finds texting while driving is on the rise


In a worrying trend, more California drivers are using their cell phones while driving this year than last, according to a study released by state officials Tuesday, July 14.

The study, conducted by the state Office of Traffic Safety and the University of California at Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, centers on observations of driver behavior.

Researchers this year observed 9.2 percent of drivers using their cell phone. That marks a 39 percent increase from 2014, when 6.6 percent of drivers were seen using their cell phones, but remains lower than the all time high of 10.8 percent recorded in 2012, officials said.

Law enforcement agencies ticketed more than 46,000 drivers in California for driving while using a cell phone in April during Distracted

Driving Awareness Month. That amount is around twice the number ticketed in an average month.

Fewer tickets were issued this year for talking on the phone using a hand-held device, but tickets for the even-more-dangerous practice of texting while driving increased 35 percent, officials said. Texting can take a driver's eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, long enough to travel the length of a football field, officials said.

"It's shocking that nearly 10 percent of motorists were observed using their cell phones while driving a motor vehicle, a potentially-lethal combination," Office of Traffic Safety Director Ronda Craft said today in a statement. "We will continue our aggressive public outreach campaign and our partnership with law enforcement to educate the public about the dangers of those who drive distracted and put the lives of others at risk."

— Bay City News Service

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Posted by Voice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2015 at 8:50 am

Just a question. If you absolutely have to communicate with someone else and (phht) can't pull over, why aren't people just sending each other quick voice tags? I mean, seriously, easier to send and receive. Especially with the new iWatch and watch devices. If you can talk to your remote control, why not send a "voice text"? In theory, starting such communication should be hassle-free and the receiver could listen or see it transcribed as text.

Excuse me, I need to get back to my stone tablet and chisel...

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2015 at 8:57 am

There is an understandable (but still wrong) advantage for phones to give directions, to explain why running late, give traffic conditions, arrangements for flight arrival and pickups, etc. I wonder if there is any data about whether these calls or texts are less than 30 second duration, or just long conversations.

I must confess to having done a couple of these, often while at a standstill in traffic, over the years. But I would never have a long drawn out chat while driving. There is a big difference in most people's eyes about this.

21 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 16, 2015 at 9:10 am

Grumpy Old Guy is a registered user.

It's all caused by the fact that we bought our children Nintendo gameboys. The younger generation is now hooked (biologically) to the need for flashing lights via a cell phone or computer screen. (it's that 120hz 1080p lighting)

I've taught classes at a local college. Glassy eyes all around, but flip on the projector and show a Youtube video - they all wake up.

Our world is in trouble. And it's not just by driving.

24 people like this
Posted by Dangerous Place
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 16, 2015 at 9:45 am

Palo Alto seems like a dangerous place for pedestrians. So many people seen using their phones while my experience, the percentage is much higher than what is quoted in the article. I drive all over the bay area, and no where is it worse than in Palo Alto. It's especially noticeable at traffic lights, because a lot of the time, the front car doesn't move when the light turns green, because they are distracted in one way or other. I think they should start using the redlight cameras to catch cell phone users.

20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

1) I'm increasingly stuck behind texters who ignore the fact that the light has finally turned green. Notice the increase in car horn noise.

2) Notice also the dangerous increase in bicyclists texting who are totally unaware of their environment, especially when wearing their earbuds.

My partner bikes to /from the train station and has tales to tell about near-misses with oblivious texting bicyclists at least a few times a week.

26 people like this
Posted by make safe choices for yourself and others.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I'm a person who bike, walks and drives. I mostly bike for shorter trips around town. I never use my cell while doing any of these activities because I value my life and the safety of others...and I've read the data. Cell phone use while operating a vehicle (that includes bikes, BTW)is illegal for good reason. It is extremely dangerous--like driving drunk.

It's interesting. When I ride my bike and stop at a red light. I have a good view into the front seat of autos that are also stopped. I frequently observe drivers picking up their cell phones when they stop. It's as though they think, "I'm stopped. It's safe to do this now." WRONG. They become distracted. They frequently miss the signal change and hold up traffic behind them. Then some driver honks and the startled cell phone user slams on the gas. Not a safe way to enter an intersection.

If you kill or maim someone because you broke the law and chose to be distracted by your phone, you WILL have to live with the legal consequences of that choice and you will have to live with the knowledge that you willfully put others at risk and harmed someone. To my mind, this is darkly self-centered and criminal behavior. (I share the same message with people who bike. The choices we all make matter.)

Each of us sets an example for others. The small daily choices we make define us. What do your choices say about the kind of person you are? How does your personal behavior affect the safety and operation of our community's streets? Please put down your cell when you are using our streets.

There's plenty of good and bad behavior amongst people. That has always been so. Let's each of us take responsibility for doing our best to be thoughtful citizens on the street. Unless you live under a rock, you know that cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous, so just don't do it. It's not that hard to do the right thing in this case.

10 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm

KP is a registered user.

Just last week, I was at a red light with an older lady who was texting...I yelled at her through her window and said "I bet you tell your kids not to text and drive too, don't you!! Get off your phone!" She rolled her window up and gave herself a smirky smile. I was completely irritated. btw, I hope she is reading this - she knows who she is!! LOL!
It's not just our young drivers doing it, it's all ages.
I also lay on the horn when I drive up next to someone who is driving and texting (or talking) hahaha, it scared the crap out of them! They wouldn't be as startled if they were paying attention to the road.

11 people like this
Posted by StrictPunishmentNeeded
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I would vote for an immediate 6-month suspension of the driver's license for such an infraction. Let the officer writing the ticket take the license right then and there and send it in with the ticket.

Too punitive? OK, I'll go as low as a 3-month suspension for first offenders.

I am also in favor of more severe punishments for drivers below a certain age

5 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm

@KP...while I'm totally with you on this I'd be careful about the intimidation factor. The wrong person may turn it into a road rage incident. Just sayin'.....stay safe.

2 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2015 at 2:23 pm

KP is a registered user.

Hahaha, you're right about that one!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Checking your phone map app at a red light probably carries the same danger and distraction as checking a paper map and quite possibly less as the folds don't cause problems.

5 people like this
Posted by Road Safety
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I'll bet there is a mistake in the article.

I think it meant to say:

"Nearly 10 percent of motorists were observed NOT using their cell phones".

As for the 90%...

18 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:10 am

StrictPunishmentNeeded suggested a 6-month license suspension, which would not deter anyone. Smartphones are part of our American culture now, unfortunately.

No, I do not have the solution, except for cars to be equipped with something that disables smartphones when in drive mode, yet that would only be for new cars so it would take decades until it solved the problem. Meanwhile, self-driving cars will be available.

101 has accidents everyday now, no doubt due to multitasking in the car. However, to see if there is congestion or view alternate routes,
one has to look at their phone. Even to voice text or voice email, looking at the phone is necessary. Roads are dangerous out there - you won't catch me driving a mini car.

What really irritates me is when I miss a green light because so many people are looking at their smartphones and take that extra second before noticing the light is green. When I check my phone, I hold it at the top of the steering wheel so I can see the traffic signal behind it. I suppose it's too much to ask others to care about anyone besides themselves.

2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 17, 2015 at 1:29 am

@ Palo Altan--

"When I check my phone, I hold it at the top of the steering wheel so I can see the traffic signal behind it." HOW ABOUT KEEPING YOUR PHONE IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT AND NOT USING IT????

4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:00 am

Where do you get enroute traffic advisories other than on a screen?
I've noticed many cars shut down their engines at red lights now.
Is that legal? Must be, it's often a built-in function these days.
Are you technically driving if you are standing still with engine off?
Is it legal to step out of the car and then look at your phone?
I've been in situations where nothing moves for 20 minutes or more.
I'll open my sunroof and stand on the seat to see what's going on.

10 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 6:19 am

it is also illegal to check your phone while sitting at a stoplight! PAPD was handing out tickets to a bunch of people for doing just that (in May) at the Paly/TC intersection.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2015 at 7:30 am


Here are a few answers to a couple of your inquiries:

"Where do you get enroute traffic advisories other than on a screen?"

511 provides traffic info. Use your phone's voice-activated hands-free dialing feature to call the service. Dashboard GPS navigation systems often have voice-activated controls. Those are also legal. Of course,a passenger may touch any device to inquire about traffic (or anything else), just not the driver. Or you could just listen to the radio for traffic reports.

Or, pull off the roadway, park your car (in a legal parking spot), then you are free to touch your phone or navigation system. Note that pulling over to the shoulder off a freeway is not a legal parking spot. The freeway shoulder is not a passing lane, pedestrian walkway, bicycle lane, nor parking lot. It is there for emergency breakdowns. Checking traffic, e-mail, Facebook is not a vehicular emergency.

"I've noticed many cars shut down their engines at red lights now. Is that legal? Must be, it's often a built-in function these days. Are you technically driving if you are standing still with engine off?"

The car is still in drive mode and the system is designed for an automatic quick start to move forward. So yes, you are still driving the car. When you press the accelerator, the car will move forward.

Like this comment
Posted by Smart phone addict
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 10:22 am

The headline is misleading...I posit that older drivers aren't texting but checking their email, reading articles, etc, which is equally or more distracting than shooting off quick texts. I have to keep my phone tucked away in my purse, in the back seat, to be able to resist the temptation to catch up on the news on the BBC or Huff Post while sitting at a big intersection, such as Page Mill or waiting to make a left turn off of Alma at Charleston. And I'm (plenty) old enough to know better! Smart phones are a dangerous addiction for drivers of all ages.

8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 17, 2015 at 10:51 am

In the old days we just fiddled with the 8-track.

Like this comment
Posted by wiggy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2015 at 11:59 am

Very alarming trend! I was driving through Oakland during morning rush hour a few weeks ago and saw 2 cars weaving in their lanes as though the drivers were drunk...they came frighteningly close to sideswiping vehicles in adjacent lanes. Both drivers had their heads down, no doubt absorbed in their "smart" devices. Myself, I'm an old fogey (55) with a 12-yr-old flip phone (the other day someone asked me what it was!) that I keep turned off unless I need to make an emergency call. I listen to the radio for traffic updates, plot out my course by looking at a map BEFORE I hit the road, drive defensively, and pay attention to the task at hand. I've never gotten lost and in nearly 40 years of driving have never been involved in a single crash. I say make the penalty way more onerous ($500 for first offence, loss of driving privilege) for this idiotic behavior.

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm

I know this probably goes against the grain, but it is not the thing you are
doing while driving that is the problem, it is the driver's judgement that is
at issue.

What good does it do a police officer to stop and cite someone who is
looking down at the device in their lap when they are stopped at one
of the long Palo Alto stoplights during rush hour - especially if when they
are driving it is turned off or they are not looking at it.

The biggest problem there is that the driver missed the changing of the
light and the movement of cars ... which is a big deal here because at any
one light there are probably two clueless imbeciles watching their phones
causing many people behind them to have to go throught and extra light
cycle, but that is not dangerous as it is when they are in traffic.

No, the problem is people's basic judgement and personality. Many of
us, maybe even most of us used to drive and phone all the time and never
have a problem or cause a problem for anyone else. But like some people
can never quite grasp the concept of driving, sharing a public resource, or
respecting the time and space of another person, there are many people
who just cannot bring themselves to use their brains to think while they
are driving and checking on the potential for problems and danger from
what they are doing or not paying attention to.

Sadly, more of our laws, our time and our resources are geared towards
the people who cannot as opposed to the those who can.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

I think looking at a phone with a map app is pretty much the same as looking at a paper map at traffic lights. All of us do that to some extent when we are driving in unfamiliar territory on our own.

The fact that a phone can give voice by voice instructions makes a phone map app safer than a paper map or written directions.

Also it is easy to tell "Siri" to text your friend and let them know that you are running late because traffic is heavy.

It is the long winded conversations of any type even with a blue tooth that must be stopped. I once returned a call to pass on some contact information to someone who was driving at the time. When she told me she couldn't write it down because she was driving I was shocked and asked why she answered my call anyway. She told me it was because she was bored while driving. Ugh. These are the people who shouldn't be talking on the phone.

5 people like this
Posted by Applause
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jul 17, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Spot-on, CrescentParkAnon!

4 people like this
Posted by jim
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2015 at 4:58 pm


Cars do not need to be changed to disable smartphones from texting during a drive.
Software installed by phone maker or cell provider could change the behaviour of the phone while it is moving faster than any particular speed because virtually alll smartphone have GPS. So the phone could put up an alert that texting during driving is dangerous or it could outright deny any texting over 10, 15 or whatever miles per hour. What about people on trains or passengers in a moving car? They could be hassled by some prompts that would be too troublesome for a driver but still allow a necessary text by a passenger.

8 people like this
Posted by Too Unsafe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2015 at 8:56 am

This is just one of the reasons I no longer bike ride. Since I moved to Palo Alto, I have been hit by drivers breaking the law three times, each time requiring hospitalization. One of those times the driver was texting, veered too far to the right and hit me.
He didn't even notice he had hit me, ran a stop sign and made an illegal left turn, then continued on his way.

His texting was made all the worse by the fact that he was driving on an International Driver's License ( no driving experience required ), which allowed him to buy an S Class Mercedes he was too inexperiencd to drive on the first place.

Unfortunately for him, I had my cell phone with me and memorized his license plate number. Result: He had to pay for my VERY expensive knee replacement et al, and replace my bike, but he paid no fine, did no jail time, and did not even lose his International Driver's License. As rich as he was, this was merely a slap on the wrist!

1 person likes this
Posted by Takeaway
a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2015 at 3:41 pm

<b>Takeaway:</b> Do not expect drivers to see and avoid you when you step in front of a moving car, or ride your bike into a car's path.

For that matter, ckeck behind you before you open your car door after parking in the street.

You may feel privileged by the law, or even by your social standing, but that driver may have other priorities than your safety.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Driving is a full-time job!

1 person likes this
Posted by Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Distracted driver struck my car from behind and I was moving on E Charleston last Thursday--see my post under the article above about Retirement in the Fast Lane...

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2015 at 7:21 am

Anyone who steps out into a crosswalk expecting all vehicles to immediately stop is an idiot. Someone doing this may have the law on their side, because that is the law, but they do not have common sense on their side. Yes, 99 times out of a 100 the driver will see them and stop, but at some stage their luck will run out.

A pedestrian crossing a street has to be in charge of their own safety. I walk a lot and always "stop, look and listen" at the curb before crossing regardless of the law. I attempt to make eye contact with the driver before I assume that they have seen me. It is much easier for a pedestrian to top than a moving vehicle.

As a driver, I have seen pedestrians come out of the shadows at the last minute, I have been confused by whether pedestrians are going to cross or turn the corner. I attempt to make eye contact with those crossing the street, but most appear to be unaware of me or my vehicle.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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