7 On Your Side: What is distracted driving?

7 On Your Side rides with San Francisco police to see how they catch distracted drivers.
February 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
We hear a lot these days about distracted driving, but what is allowed and what will get you a ticket. 7 On Your Side has been looking into that and joins us now.

There are 40 states have no laws banning adults from using their cellphones when they're driving down the road. California does, but how do police even know you are using your phone? And here's one more question: can you legally drink coffee when driving to work?

I went out with San Francisco police to see if we could spot distracted drivers and boy could we ever.

"I think a lot of people have a routine when they drive, they don't stay focused. They feel comfortable with their driving habits, even with bicycles here. They just don't pay attention," said San Francisco Officer Rory Preston.

Preston spent the morning on his bicycle pulling over cars. How does he spot the law breakers? He looks for drivers who are looking down. Those pulled over on this day were surprised they were caught, but most knew it was against the law.

We asked Brendy Hale of Menlo Park why he looked distracted. She told us, "I was looking for directions on my phone on how to get home."

"The California state law is hands free, so you are not allowed to have the phone in your hand period," said Officer Albie Esparza, the public information officer for the San Francisco Police Department.

Driving down the road we know we are not allowed to use our handheld device, but how about drinking a soda or taking a bite from a burger? or reading a newspaper? You've seen people do it.

"Well, those things are technically allowed while driving, however there is one catch all vehicle code where if you are driving unsafe and an officer can articulate unsafe driving, and that includes shaving, doing your make up, eating in your vehicle, you may be citable," said San Francisco Officer Gordon Shyy.

So you are warned.

Now, have you ever seen anyone jay walking? It is illegal, but talking while walking isn't and neither is riding a bicycle while talking on a hand held device.

"Right now, as it stands, there is no law that requires bicyclists not to be on their phones, like in their vehicles, even though they have to abide by other vehicle codes like stopping at a stop sign and yielding to pedestrians and so forth," said Esparza.

So how much does a citation cost you? Well officially $20, but once all the fees are added on, in San Francisco getting caught holding a device and driving will run $186.00.


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