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Billboard criticizes Simitian cell-phone law

Original post made on Feb 18, 2009

A billboard near University Avenue on U.S. Highway 101 criticizes state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, for authoring the law requiring California drivers to be hands-free with their cell phones while driving.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 9:48 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Georgia
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:44 am

Rights? He must be speaking of the right to drift in oncoming traffic, to dangerously tailgate, to impede traffic flow by unconsciously slowing down, to hit a pedestrian or bicyclist while dialing or checking caller ID. Oh yes, we must protect our "rights"! Reality check - when you are operating a vehicle, you should be driving. And if you think you're really really good at doing other things at the same time??? Well you probably are. Good at those other things. But not good at driving. -Georgia

Posted by T
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

while I'm not sure the law will cut down on accidents, the use of the word "rights" is pretty funny...or sad...or stupid...or all three maybe

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:13 am

Sorry, I'm with Paulson on this one. Bluetooth units suck, are difficult for the hearing impaired. They suddenly don't work for mysterious reasons, but still hijack the signal so the phone can't be answered unless 'uncoupled'. There is more distraction trying to go back into the menu to uncouple and redo than if you simply answered. Half the people I see with the blue tooth units are now using their free hands to do just about anything other than drive with two hands on the wheel. The rest are just using their phones as always. I compromise, while $200 worth of useless bluetooth technology (that I couldn't afford or didn't want for Christmas in the first place) is laying about my car, I just use my seatbelt and speakerphone. If Mr. Simitian wants to supply me with one of those expensive units then come to my house to couple it so it works perfectly every day I'll consider using it. I am all in favor of the no texting while driving law. That one makes sense.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:14 am

The problem is that people still look away from the road when they are "looking up a phone number" or checking their text message, etc. Also, I still see eating, make up being put on, reading while driving. I even saw one driver using a laptop while driving on Hwy 101!

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:39 am

I've seen reading too. A BOOK! A freakin' BOOK! Three times now in 30 years, but that's 3 times too many. And now with more people using blue tooth tech. I see people punching stuff in their blackberrys, (PDA's) probably calender, while yapping and driving with their elbows. At least if they had to hold a phone to their ear ONE hand would be on the wheel!

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:49 am

I use my Blackberry speakerphone function because it's easier and I am not conducting business on the phone. I tried one of those hanging speakerphones and it was too much of a hassle. When my phone rang, I had to connect it to the Bluetooth and it could cause an accident while I was looking away from the road so long to connect it.

They really should ban texting/emailing while driving; that's more of a hazard.

Notice that when stopped at a traffic light these days, the cars take so long to move when the light is green because so many people are texting. I have missed green lights because drivers took too long to get their cars going.

Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:55 am

On the other hand, the "Hands Free" law is an example of knee-jerk legislating. Isn't talking at all on a cell phone increase danger? If we're going to legislate safety at that level, shouldn't all cell-phoning while driving be illegal?

Eating while driving is just as dangerous as cell-phoning, but I haven't heard of any legislation to close the drive-through lanes at McDonalds. I note that the fast food industry would lobby/contribute wildly to defeat any such law, while the only money source with a dog in the cell phone fight is the headset industry?

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:57 am

I do not know about "RIGHTS PART" I do know that I would expect a BETTER BILL from a senator. What a waste of time and money(ie the cause of the huge bailout). Joe never did much but collect a check and look like he is missing something. A???? CLUE is what he is missing . and the ability to stand up for what is right.

Rights go with accountability. I think if you get in a crash while driving , most people pay the price"Ticket,fine,increased insurance.

Your are accountable for your rights.

We all know this city does not respect anyones rights and are NOT ACCOUNTABLE for their actions AND DO NOT KNOW HOW TO REPORT OR TELL THE TRUTH!

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

It IS banned! I guess the next technological advance will be voice directed text messaging. To text/email on a blackberry with the qwerty board, you have to look at the keys the whole time, unlike the texting that utilizes a,b,c tapping.

What makes me laugh is all the people who will be shocked when they hit something and prosecuting or personal injury attorneys subpoena the cell companies to see if there was texting happening at the moment of impact. Like that train engineer in L.A...

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:06 pm

When 9-11 happened, I saw interviews with more than one family member that received calls from daughters, wives, husbands, sons, friends trapped in the burning buildings while they were driving. NY bans cell use while driving. By the time some of them pulled over, the call was missed and their loved one was gone. Those last chances to speak to their loved one, perhaps say goodbye, gone.

Pass any law you want, I will let most calls go to voicemail while I'm driving anyway, but NOT those from my kids or family members. Blue tooth or no, I'm answering those calls!

Posted by AG
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

For those of you who do not like Blue Tooth (I don't), you can simply use a normal headset or a good speaker unit. A headset will cost $10 to $20, much less than Blue Tooth. I think a cell phone is meant to be used not as a way to have long conversations in the car, but simply to tell someone if you're late, lost, or other short, one or two sentence conversations.

One of the complaints on that crazy billboard (which is also on El Camino in Barron Park) is that headsets cause cancer. If this is true, the best way to avoid the radiation emanating from a cell phone is not to use it, or to use it with a headset with a radiation free ear hook (easily available on the web).

By the way, texting while driving is illegal now. Reading while you're driving should be illegal too!

Posted by Big Al
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm

YSK, that is an OUTSTANDING reason to allow people to use phones while driving. The next time there is another national disaster, someone might miss an important phone call. Of course, if your loved one calls you while you're driving and you answer it, the odds of your causing a small local disaster increase substantially.

If you're so addicted to your phone that you can't stand being without it during your commute, take public transit. Easy!

Posted by Georgia
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

"Pass any law you want, I will let most calls go to voicemail while I'm driving anyway, but NOT those from my kids or family members. Blue tooth or no, I'm answering those calls! "

And I dearly hope you don't cause a tragedy by so doing. For yourself and your loved ones, and for anyone else's. I'm sorry for those who missed calls from their loved ones on 9/11/01. I'm relieved though, that they didn't get that terrible news while moving a motor vehicle because likely the fatality count have be higher. People who feel the need, for whatever reason, to be in 24x7 uninterrupted communication with their family members, need to change how they live to accommodate that. In my view one of the most bizarre aspects of our society, is the notion that just because something is possible, it SHOULD be done - any time and anywhere, regardless of the consequences. Somehow, in the decades between the first car on the road and the use of cell phones (which I own & use by the way) people and families and businesses managed to survive.

More fundamentally though, is that justification for doing anything and everything while driving ... except driving - is outrageous and would be laughable if not such a serious topic. Most adults in this country can move a vehicle from point a to point b. That is hardly the definition (or skill) of driving. I disagree with laws that keep me safe from myself. I generally agree - with great contemplation of each one - with laws that are intended to protect innocent people from those who justify - for example - driving thousands of pounds of steel at any speed while not paying attention. Whether the lack of attention is phone, visiting, eating, drunk/drugs, grief, anger, whatever - it's as simple and basic as that, no matter what else anyone wants to make of it. Americans used to take pride in being good drivers. Now, far too many take pride in doing anything but while moving a vehicle from point a to point b. Adults laugh at the things that only teens used to laugh at. Adults are supposed to remember how many loved ones end up dead or paralyzed because of wreckless behavior. Adults (or at least some of them/us) still rail against drunk driving, but watching your phone instead of the road is ok. Put some more thought into that choice. Please.

Posted by Sue
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

How in the world did we all survive pre-cellphones? Haven't we as a population become TOO dependent on the technology?

Posted by Georgia
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Too dependent on technology? Complex question :-) Too dependent on being in constant contact and/or "reachable" 24x7? Yes. But if that's what people want, they can adjust accordingly. I just ask that they don't do so while driving. "Fireman" asks ... "Georgia; Should Nanny Joe pass a law about running with sharp objects in your hand?". No. If you read my post I was pretty clear that I defend my right to hurt or kill myself. As for other things, I made it pretty clear (if you read what I wrote) that I think driving is for driving. My passengers can tell you that I put driving first and finishing sentences or answering questions last. Obviously several here have an issue with Joe Simitian. My issue, is with people driving inattentively for any reason and the fact that things got so far out of hand that someone felt a law was necessary. We got ourselves here.

"Fireman" asks, "Or do you think common sense counts for something?" How I wish it were so! Unfortunately too many adults are behaving like distracted teens when they're driving instead of like responsible drivers. I learned to drive from parents who taught defensive driving. Too many of today's kids are being taught distracted driving. Anyone who thinks that's ok needs to ... think some more. "Fireman" writes, "Get in a crash, you are accountable, with JOES LAW OR NOT." As drivers we are responsible to avoid collisions. Obvious? Unfortunately not to many. We are also responsible not to frighten drivers around us, who may over-correct or otherwise react such that they in turn cause a collision. It's so basic. But increasingly, basic common sense is not at all common and instead is becoming increasingly rare.

Posted by nancy
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

What is all the fuss about ? far as I can see, no one is paying any attention to the "hands free" law. People have had their windows tinted so they won't be seen. Very few comply, just as they don't turn on their auto lights in the evening or in the one pays attention to any road don't stress!

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I have special ring tones for family, so I don't have to look at my readout to know who is calling. I have my phone caught on my seatbelt, and I have a speaker function. I have had a cell phone in my car for over 17 years, when they were carphones, and have never been in, nor caused, an accident. I haven't swerved, run a light or even been honked at! If a call comes in that becomes intensive, I pull over or exit the freeway and find a parking lot to finish my call. If I make a call I use voice recognition and verbally tell the phone what number to call. If anything, when on a call I drive more attentively, not less. I do have to have my phone, I have sick family members and I am their caretaker. Some of us take driving very seriously and make that the priority. I enjoy my good drivers insurance status. When I take or make a call the policy is state your case quickly and hang up.

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2009 at 8:49 am

YES what does this bill really change? NOTHING not one thing, well just adds to the WAY TOO MANY LAWS WE ALREADY HAVE? Also how stupid!

What about CD's and radios JOE. GPS units.

Again nothing! positive comes from THE MONEY THE CITIZENS PAY THIS PERSON!

The traffic laws are still the traffic laws. YOU AT FAULT, your accountable.

Just because the city and the leaders are not accountable does not mean the rest of the world, THINKS ITS OK TO LIVE IN A FALSE WORLD?

You just showed that THIS GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE really does not have anything to do.

And the he is a waste of time, money and the future of this state.

Posted by Compromise
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:46 am

While I pretty much disagree with simitian the majority of the time, this is actually a relatively practical law.

1. We all know its dangerous to do anything in a car OTHER than driving, period... and in spite of that we use cellphones, get distracted by passengers, etc., KNOWING that it increases the risk of an accident.
2. WE legitimized this concern by PASSING the law to prohibit this use.
3. Event for those who supported the law, support it know full well, that THEY would have no problems making exceptions for themselves at any point they deemed necessary... i.e. if my kid/spouse etc. calls, Im picking up regardless of headset.
4. Police enforcement HAS BEEN be selective, but no prohibitive as there are still plenty of people out there holding the handset, and unlike speeding, their is far less backlash towards police for issuing a ticket.

If nothing this law reinserts accountability back to the driver, whereas its probably been displaced.

With that being said, I can at least give Simitian credit for "one" thing, as vote against him.

Posted by Cellphones out of control
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

Cell phone users are out of control. I have seen people phone each other from one part of the supermarket to another. They need technology to decide which kind of lettuce to buy.
It is scary to see drivers making left turns while on the phone. I don't care if they get themselves in an accident, I just don't want them hitting ME.
They are addicted and just as dangerous as druggies.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:57 am

Cell phone use is totally out of control, period.

I can't imagine why people need to be on their phones as much as they do, is it really multi-tasking or just plain bad manners?

I do not want to stand in line at the checkout and hear people's personal conversations, and personal they often are.

I do not want to be called by my kid's teacher or a reminder from the dentist's office while I am enjoying a rare coffee with a friend when it could easily be left on my machine at home. My cell phone is for urgent contact only, not an alternative number in case I don't pick up my home phone.

Why do we think that both of these things are OK?

Posted by Just a Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm

The law is ridiculous and should be overturned. It makes us LESS safe because it is harder to drive safely using hands-free and/or headset than it is to simply just talk on the phone.

But unfortunately, not allowing them in cars at all would also not make any sense without also banning listening to the car radio, or having conversations with other passengers in your car, or other more dangerous car activities that drivers participate in.

The law is ridiculous. People are less safe with this law in place. People need to accept that cell phones are here to stay, and bad drivers are here to stay as well.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm

To those of you who think cell phone use is totally out of control and needs more regulation: Tell you what, why don't you live with your cell phone the way you want and keep yourselves out of my business?

Or, perhaps we could just enforce "driver only" car laws, since many more accidents happen when there is someone in the car yakking with the driver than not. After all, it is for the public good!!!

think a little bit, folks.

Posted by another perspective
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

To those of you who think alcohol use is totally out of control and needs more regulation: Tell you what, why don't you drink your booze the way you want and keep yourselves out of my business?

Or, perhaps we could just prohibit "sober" drivers. Only 32% of fatal car accidents involve alcohol, so more than twice as many fatal accidents happen when the driver is not drunk. After all, it is for the public good!!!

drink a little bit, folks.

Posted by Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 10:36 am

While it is true that people can see drivers using their cell phones in ways that makes us think that they are driving irresponsibly--the data collected by the CHP does not show cell phones to be a significant cause of accidents. The CHP data does show alcohol and speed as significant causes--but not cell phones.

Simitian did not use CA CHP accident data to justify this law.

Unless CA CHP data can be used to demonstrate that cell phones are considered as significant causes of accidents, or that accident rates have gone down significantly since this law was pass--it should be rescinded. Drivers do have the right to qualify a ballot initiative and get this law removed.

Posted by paul
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:03 pm

When I saw this story in the Daily Post last week I thought "What's the bigger distraction, talking on the phone or looking at this billboard?" (BTW, the Weekly should credit the Daily Post for its story ideas.)

Posted by more perspectives
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:58 pm

It's simply not possible to collect accurate data on cell phone involvement in accidents. There is no breathalyzer for cell phone use. However, most drivers -- those of us who pay attention -- have noticed the erratic behavior of drivers with cell phones at their ears. We've seen them drift from lane to lane and drive in a manner that suggests they are oblivious to those around them. Many of us have noticed a marked improvement in the skills of drivers around us since last July 1.

Some of you may be able to drive safely and hold your cell phone to your ear at the same time, just as some of you may be able to drink a sixpack and then drive without impairment. But laws are enacted to govern the masses, not a select few.

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Paul, you have a point. More work for Nanny turn your head JOE.

There should be a law against billboards. And start with the ones about JOE? You are going straight to the top. Now look me straight in the eye and lie. Your are Senator Material. conflict of intrest JOE. C.P.A backs C.P.A .

Now blow all the money, give yourself a big BONUS, you know the right in your face public,TYPE BONUS.

Go ahead, the city will cut it out of the schools or some other state or federal program. Round and round the money goes and the only place you know for sure, is down the drain or down THE GREEDY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE pocket,, not the hard working ones that have to work everyday for years. No those are the one people who make their living passing bills like this eat, with his friends right by his side. Eating away and the public's plate.

Don't you ever get full?

NEED MORE UP goes your POWER BILL. now that is real abuse of POWER.
And unless the FEDS say something, open your wallets again,again

NO open it MORE,$$$$$$ bye bye$$$$ Billions

Posted by esteeb
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2009 at 1:28 am

Way to go Georgia. You've made the most sense. Conecentrate on driving when your driving, and nothing else. Fewer distractions equal fewer accidents. If a call is so important PULL OVER somewhere safe and then deal with the call. Unless of course you're a paramedic, firefighter, or law enforcement officer. Otherwise, stay off the phone.

Posted by Ryan
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:34 am

Like the law, hate the law, or hate other's use of cell phones while they are driving, the point is the law is written poorly. Plenty of distracting things can be done legally while driving, changing the radio, putting on makeup, reading, etc, and until this law was passed, talking on your cell phone. If it really is such a distraction, the law should be written to say that anybody caught causing an accident, speeding, running stop signs, or breaking the law in some way while talking on the phone should simply have their fine doubled. There are plenty of drivers out there perfectly capable of driving and talking on the phone. As long as you aren't doing something otherwise considered illegal on the road, why create legislature to fine people for driving what once was considered legally less than a year ago?

As for Simitian, he is clearly out of touch with a lot of the population he covers. Seeing as how he can't adequately write a simple law, or come up with evidence supporting why he wrote the law other than "cell phone use is distracting," i can't believe my taxes go to pay the guys most likely inflated salary. I didn't vote for him in November, and the guy could cure cancer and I wouldn't vote for him again. Anybody that thinks big brother knows what is best for me and has the power to create laws that limit my rights (even if I agree with those laws) doesn't deserve ANY position in government.

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

Thanks Ryan. Seeing how he can' adequately write a simple law.

Kind of explains this city,state and THE BILLION DOLLAR BAILOUT?

To me anyway

Posted by Drew
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

It's good to see all the support for of one of our scumbag politicians. One the one hand I do agree with the stated reasons for this law, the rhetoric, after all, who could be against improving safety?! Of course, there are the down sides. Given the current economic status of this state, sit should be rather obvious that this is not about safety, but about "creative revenue-ing," one more excuse to write you a ticket and steal more of our productive time.

The other down side I saw immediately, is the rather offensive message to police, "you're too stupid to tell the difference between someone who can or can't safely multitask while driving (reducing "highway hypnosis"." I agree, again, that someone who can't maintain speed, follow at a reasonable distance or stay in their own lane for more than a few seconds should be pulled over and maybe even get a ticket, but if we trust the police/highhway patrol to carry a gun, we should be ale to trust them on who can and can't safely use a phone. If that's too much to ask, maybe we should rethink letting them carry a gun...

This is ridiculous.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2009 at 7:21 am

I have tried 3 different bluetooths ( blueteeth?) and 2 different wired ear pieces. They all suck. They are all much too distracting since I am always having to mess with them in order to get heard or hear. I have felt much more dangerous WITH these things than without. I have had to switch lanes more often to pull off the road in order to fool with the blamed things than I ever did before.

I quit. It is a stupid law, but I did my best..but I don't care. Fine me. Small price to pay for being safer and less irritated. I am not going to stop talking on the phone, but I am going to do it in a safer way than now, which is holding the phone to my ear.

I am much more distracted with people in the car, or when listening to the news and screaming at the radio, than I am with my phone to my ear, so I think we should outlaw passengers and radios next.

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