Q Have you done any research on why police officers are allowed to use their handheld cellphones while driving? If they truly want drivers to stop using cellphones, I believe police have to do the same thing. Too many people see officers on their phones and police seem to think they are above the law since no one can issue them a ticket, so why should we stop? If police truly cared about the law, they would lead by example and use hands-free devices.
A Boy, do I get a ton of similar complaints. Police and other emergency workers are exempt from the hands-free cellphone law, though several departments urge their officers to use handheld devices and some have provided them with headsets. Here is why they are exempt:
Police often use cellphones for work, freeing up radio airtime while they make calls related to police business. Sometimes they need confidential information that they don't want to be picked up by anyone listening to a police scanner.
Other times they are calling people who have called police. And cellphones are a handy tool when calling another police agency that does not share the same radio channel.
But why can't they make those calls on hands-free devices? Here's one reason: Many officers wear an earpiece for their portable radio in one ear, and background noise from police radios, scanners and sirens can make hearing difficult. Fitting a Bluetooth headset over an existing earpiece is not practical, police say.
Do they ever use it for personal use? I'm sure some do, and I wish they realized how many of you are watching.
Q Driving to work one morning on Senter Road in San Jose, I was passed by a Franklin-McKinley school district bus with a driver who was texting. I called the transportation department in that district and much to my surprise, I was told that school bus drivers are exempt from the hands-free law. I find it amazing that people who are driving a 40-foot bus while having to control 50 yelling kids can do this.
A A school bus driver can use a handheld cellphone for work-related purposes or an emergency, but not for personal use.
Q Are there exemptions to the cellphone use/texting laws for USPS, UPS, FedEX, and nonemergency government workers while driving?
A No, says the CHP.
Q When I forget to bring my headset and when I have to take a phone call, I place the phone on my upper arm near my shoulder while driving, and talk using the phone speaker. Technically it is still hands-free. Is it legal?
A D.J.-the-CHP-Man says: "No, it will not fly. Can you imagine the distraction when he hits one of the gazillion potholes on our roads?"
Q Over the last few days, we've been hearing about the police crackdown on texting while driving, and about how texting and talking on the phone can make you as unsafe on the road as a drunken driver. I was driving down Highway 87 one morning and thought about those signs that say if you see a drunken driver to call 911. If I see a driver texting or talking on a cellphone, should I call 911?
A Unless there's a life-threatening emergency, I would not. By the time a cop arrives, the cellphone scofflaw would hopefully be off the phone.
Q I thought I was in a low-risk environment. It was New Year's Eve around 6 p.m. I parked on a city street, leaving two feet behind the car in front of me. I should be safe, right? As I started to get out of my car, the car in front of me went into reverse and -- WHAM! -- hit my car. The driver had been busy looking at his phone, didn't see my lights as I pulled in behind him, nor did he look behind when backing up. After all, there was no car there when he pulled in.
No damage, just some surprise. Still, I was stopped and parked, he was stopped and parked and I still got hit due to the inattention of a driver on a cellphone.
A I have an idea. Every day through the end of the April crackdown on cellphone scofflaws, I will print one example of the stupidity of drivers talking on cellphones or texting. So send in your examples.