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The Use of Cell Phones When Driving is Increasing

A recent study by the Office of Traffic Safety and the University of California at Berkeley has revealed the use of cell phones while driving has increased dramatically. In conjunction with the California Highway Patrol, the study reveals a 39% increase in the use of cell phones by motorists while driving. In 2015, researchers found that 9.2% of motorists were seen using a cell phone while driving. This is a significant increase over the 6.2% of drivers who used cell phones in 2014.

April 2015 was “Distracted Driving Awareness” month in California. During the month of April, the California Highway Patrol and 250 other law enforcement agencies issues more than 46,000 citations to motorists who were using cell phones while driving. Even more interesting is that the greatest number of citations written was for “texting” while driving, not actually speaking on the cell phone.

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) specifically prohibits the use of electronic wireless communication devices while driving:

CVC Section 23123(a) provides…. “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking…..”

CVC Section 21323.5 (a) provides…. “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.”

The Use of a Cell Phone Currently Does Not Affect a Driver’s Point Count

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) utilizes an elaborate computer database to monitor the driving history of all California Drivers. Known as the “NOTS” Computer, this database adds violation “Points” to a driving record whenever a qualifying violation occurs. “NOTS” stands for Negligent Operator Treatment System and is a classic example of “Big Brother” looking over your shoulder. If you accumulate to many “NOTS” points within a specified period of time, the DMV will identify you as a Negligent Operator and seek to suspend your driving privilege.

Fortunately, being cited for the use of a cell phone while driving, currently does not qualify as a violation subject to “NOTS.”

CVC Section 12810.3, entitled Violation Point: Wireless Telephone and Communications Device Use…. provides “A violation point shall not be given for conviction of violation of subdivision (a) of Section 23123, subdivision (a) of Section 23123.5, or subdivision (b) of Section 23124.”

So, current California Law does not provide for a point assessment for the use of a cell phone while driving, however, like all of the laws in our State, that is subject to change. The Office of Traffic Safety, The California Highway Patrol and Caltrans, all have outreach and education programs aimed at curtailing the use of cell phones while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 80 percent of all traffic collisions involve some form of driver distraction and more than 3,000 people were killed last year in collisions involving a distracted driver. Because this issue is so much on the minds of the California Legislature, you can safely assume that current law will soon be amended to include the application of a “point count” to punish drivers who use their cell phone when driving.

How the DMV Identifies a “Negligent Operator”

As stated above, nearly all criminal violations involving the operation of a motor vehicle and quite a few moving violations do cause the DMV to assess a “point” count to the driver’s record. If a driver accumulates too many points within a specified period of time, the NOTS Computer will automatically identify that person as a potentially dangerous driver and will label them as a Negligent Operator.

If you have received an “Order of Suspension” in the mail which identifies you as a Negligent Operator, make no mistake. The DMV intends to suspend or revoke your driving privilege. All is not lost however. Before the DMV can suspend or revoke a person’s driver license for negligent operation, that driver must be given an opportunity to defend himself or herself against the allegation.

If you receive an “Order of Suspension” in the mail, call the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates. Our team of former police officers, DMV hearing officers, investigators and scientists have been fighting and winning Negligent Operator Hearings for years.

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