Oh, it's true
Police actually do write tickets for playing on your phone while driving
By Jennifer Hadley 11/05/2009
Until last week, I was convinced that receiving a ticket for texting or talking on the phone while driving was nothing more than an urban legend. Sure, when the laws first came out, I obeyed them. But I soon tired of the novel inconvenience and reverted to doing exactly as I pleased behind the wheel. I know I’m in good company. I can’t drive two blocks to the 7-Eleven without seeing a fellow driver with phone pressed to an ear or typing away. I don’t obey the laws and neither do countless others. Still, no one I knew had actually been cited.
Enter Luke Barnett’s Facebook status and my whole urban legend theory goes up in smoke. It read: “Luke Barnett finally learned his lesson. Talking on the phone while driving ticket.” Following several posts and replies, I learn to my horror that this is not the first time he’s received a ticket while using his phone in the car. He’s been fined for texting too. If I were him, I’d watch for falling anvils, because that’s some bad luck — bad luck I needed to hear all the gory details about.
Luke received his first ticket six weeks after the ban on texting while driving went into effect. I couldn’t wait to hear how he had demanded that the policeman prove that he was texting while driving. Wouldn’t the burden of proof fall on law enforcement? How can they see what you’re doing under your steering wheel, and furthermore prove it? As it turns out in Luke’s case, this wasn’t an issue. He sheepishly admits “I text with my phone on top of my steering wheel.”
Clearly, I’m going to have to give Luke a few lessons in the fine art of devious driving. His overtly blatant disregard for the law wound up costing him $130.
Next I needed to know how he got busted talking on the phone. Didn’t he have a hands-free device? “I do, and I don’t like it. I used to use it, but it’s not as clear or comfortable as just holding my phone. I took it into the house once to charge it and just never brought it back to my car.” Can’t fault him for that; I don’t like mine either and haven’t even synched it up to my new phone. But I tend to be pretty inconspicuous when talking on the phone in my car. I just put it on speaker and hold it down low. Luke apparently never considered this diabolical solution.
Luke went on to explain that he was driving down Santa Monica Boulevard in the midst of a conference call with six others when the siren blared behind him. The scenario which followed must have been hysterical, as it went something like this:
Policeman: “I’ve been following you for eight blocks, trying to give you the opportunity to see me and put the phone down.”
Luke: “I would have put the phone down if I’d seen you. But you see;
I was on the phone, so I didn’t see you.”
Oh, bless Luke’s heart. His honesty is probably what gets him into legal difficulties. I don’t suffer from this affliction. When I was pulled over a few weeks ago and asked if I knew why, without delay I replied, “No idea, sir,” though I’d been texting my little heart out. However, my ability to spew forth this little white lie, with no compunction whatsoever, kept me out of trouble. As things turned out, I was given a warning for driving without headlights.
Unfortunately, despite Luke’s honest and hilarious response to the officer, he received a ticket for talking on the phone (even though he says he didn’t think the officer really wanted to give it to him).
The fine for this ticket is yet to be determined.
And there you have it. Police officers actually do write tickets for playing on your phone while driving. And though I still know more people who have won the lottery than those who’ve received such a ticket, I concede Luke’s experiences have dispelled my urban legend theory. I guess next I’ll have to accept that lightning does strike twice. In the meantime, I’m never standing beside Luke again.
Contact Jennifer Hadley at firstname.lastname@example.org.