Is it possible to be more irresponsible than texting your underaged mistress to score you some drugs while driving a Corvair
with infants and kittens wandering in the backseat?
While this sort of behavior might make the Examiner
blotter, there's no way for the San Francisco Police Department to tabulate how many drivers are texting -- let along chatting on the phone -- while driving. They don't keep track; "Our system is archaic," says a police spokesperson.
Waylaying a stagecoach may have its own punch card in the SFPD's system; cell phone use or texting while driving does not. For laws that were passed to ostensibly make the roads safer, this lack of data is problematic. In many ways, the SFPD's attitude toward benchmarks mirrors the exclamation of the chief bandito in Treasure of The Sierra Madre
: "Statistical methods of charting success or failure? We don't need no stinkin' statistical methods of charting success or failure!"
The California Highway Patrol, on the other hand, does keep track of how many drivers have been cited for speaking on a hand-held cell phone since a state law kicked in
back in July of last year. They use an astoundingly high-tech device called an "Excel Spreadsheet," and one was "e-mailed" to me by the CHP's Officer Hugo Mendoza.
How many San Francisco drivers are being cited is still anyone's guess, though. The CHP only keeps records on the level of its nine state enforcement divisions (the nine Bay Area counties comprise the Golden Gate Division).
Data on texting should roll around by February. Meanwhile, from July through earlier this month, 49,050 California drivers were nailed for yapping on the cell while driving; 8,418 of them were pulled over in the Golden Gate Division.
Incidentally, based upon our reading of the state law, it's illegal to hold a cell phone to your cheek and speak while driving -- but perfectly legal to speak into a Bluetooth earpiece while holding your hand on your cheek.
But that's just as well. The American Automobile Association reports that hands-free cell phones are no safer than the vintage model used by the twit illustrating this article.