Q It's time to lay off the kids who text while driving. It's ALL ages.
A It is?
Q I take public transportation and I get a bird's-eye view of the inside of vehicles. From what I've seen, 90 percent of texting while driving is done by middle-aged men and women. Kids do it, too. Everyone does. What scares me about what I see is that middle-aged people aren't as skillful at texting as kids are. Everyone's an accident about to happen.
A The story last week about the 19-year-old Morgan Hill woman who crashed while texting and speeding in Santa Cruz drew quite a response on my Facebook and comment pages. She hit a tree, her car burst into flames and a CHP officer pulled her from the burning vehicle. The woman was also booked into Santa Cruz County Jail for driving under the influence.
But some came to the defense of young motorists.
Q I commute about 15 miles and the No. 1 texters are older adult women and men. I drive near several colleges and only see a few kids texting, but I have to say when they do text they pay zero attention to their driving. At least the adults try to, but usually fail. Just put the phone down, people.
A In an AT&T survey a couple of years ago, 77 percent of teens said that while adults tell kids not to text or email while driving, adults themselves do it "all the time." And a Pew Research Center report concluded that about half of adults say they have texted while driving and are just as likely as teens to text behind the wheel.
"Adults may be the ones sounding the alarm on the dangers of distracted driving, but they don't always set the best example themselves," Mary Madden, a senior research specialist at Pew, said in a statement when the report was released.
Now, back to our young Morgan Hill texter.
Q She should speak at every high school about the risks of texting.
A Yes, indeed.
Q A friend and I had lunch with a traffic court judge, and we discussed this issue, only he did not know the answer. So we agreed to ask the Great One! The laws on texting and hands-free cellphone use say "while driving." A friend got a ticket for talking on the phone while stopped at a red light boxed in on all sides -- clearly not driving, in his view.
So, how far off the road must we be to not be driving?
Transmission in park? Can the engine be running? If sitting in a parking lot or other private property with the engine running, can we be ticketed?
A You cannot text or talk on a handheld phone while stopped at a red light; it's also illegal on the shoulder of a highway, except for calls to 911 in cases of emergency.
But you can do so while parked on a city street, or even while driving in parking lots, where the law does not apply -- not that I would recommend it.
Q Does the new texting law apply to all teens?
A No. The new state law allows drivers age 18 and over to receive and send a text message as long as they are using technology designed for fully voice-operated, hands-free operation. Drivers under 18 cannot text at all.
Q Is it legal to program a GPS system while driving? Seems it's just as distracting as being on a cellphone or texting.
A Art-the-CHP-Man says you are absolutely right. "This can be just as distracting if not more than being on a cellphone, since there are more fields to fill out," he said. "At this time, there's no law that prevents motorists from programming a GPS device while driving in California. Just like there isn't a specific law for shaving, applying makeup or reading a newspaper or map while driving.
"However, motorists can be cited for driving at an unsafe speed for the current conditions of the road if they are caught doing things that would be considered unsafe while driving. Use common sense while driving."