County of Santa Clara
Board of Supervisors
Supervisorial District Five
Supervisor Liz Kniss
Prepared by:.Pattie DeMellopine
Chief Board Aide
DATE: September 15, 2005
TO: Supervisor.James T..Beall, Jr., Chairperson
Supervisor, District 5
County Ordinance regarding use of wireless telephones while driving
Consider County Ordinance regarding Use of Wireless Telephones while Operating a Motor Vehicle.
Direct County Counsel to draft an Ordinance, including Committee recommendations.
No fiscal impact.
REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION
Driving is a complexity that requires the full attention of the driver, and use of wireless phones while driving is one of
many potential distractions. Use of wireless phones while driving is an emerging roadway safety issue that can be acted
upon in conjunction with continued public education. Much like the enforcement actions taken to ensure safety with the
use of seat belts, it is in the best interest of public safety to limit wireless phone use to "hands−free" devices while
operating a motor vehicle, except in an emergency.
Research regarding the use of cellular telephones while driving has shown there is an increased risk of accident due to
operator negligence. A report by the New England Journal of Medicine found that "using a cellular telephone was
associated with a risk of having a motor vehicle collision that was about four times as high as that among the same
drivers when they were not using their cellular telephones. This relative risk is similar to the hazard associated with
driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit." Further studies including one conducted by the Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety and one by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2005, have reached similar
conclusions that talking on wireless phones increases the risk of an accident and has caused far more incidents than any
The proposed ordinance allows the use of wireless telephones while driving if a hands−free device is in use. An
exception is made for emergency calls including, but not limited to, law enforcement, health care provider, fire
department, or other emergency services entity. In addition, emergency services professionals, while operating an
authorized emergency vehicle, are also exempted. In the state of California, it is already illegal to use a wireless phone
while operating a school bus.
AREAS FOR CONSIDERATION
Implementation of such an Ordinance requires consideration of the following:
Effective date − January 1, 2008. This allows time for any State legislation to be enacted that would supercede a County
Ordinance and provides for public education.
Enforcement authority − County Sheriff in unincorporated areas, CHP on County Expressways.
Secondary offense − similar implementation to the seat belt law, reduces burden on law enforcement.Specific language
must be included in the ordinance.
Penalties for violation − lower amount reinforces education, reduces potential disproportionate socioeconomic impact.
California State proposed legislation is for $20.00 (1st time) and $50.00 (2nd time), Chicago is $50.00, increased to
$200.00 if crash caused by distraction with phone.Specific dollar amount should be included in the ordinance.
Public Education − one year education campaign prior to Ordinance effective date, January 2007 to December 2007,
could be in conjunction with the Traffic Safe Communities Network.Grants to be sought.
County policy for employees − legal liability
Law enforcement training costs − minimal training requires and could be included in current training system at no
The table below outlines current regulations in effect in State and local jurisdictions. Information is from the Governors
Highway Safety Association.
Type of Restriction State City Only
Only School Bus Drivers Restricted AZ, AK,
IL, RI, TN
Chicago, IL −
Use of Wireless Phones Prohibited without CN, D.C.,
NJ, NY Brookline, Mass −
Hands Free (NY also prohibits Taxi drivers
Brooklyn, North Olmstead,
from any type of wireless phone use while driving) and Walton Hills, Ohio −
Santa Fe, NM −
Conshohocken, and West
Wireless phone use permitted as long as it does not interfere with the MA
operation of the vehicle and one hand is on the wheel
Wireless phone use is permitted as long as it provides sound in one ear FL
and allows surrounding sound to be heard with the other ear (assumes 2
Drivers using a Permit are prohibited from using a wireless phone TN, NJ,
Drivers under 18 prohibited from using wireless phones CO, D.C.,IL,
Wireless phone use while driving is part of a State enacted comprehensive NH
distracted driving law
In October of 2000 Suffolk County, NY was one of the first to pass a ban on using hand−held cellular phones while
driving. In 2001, New York became the first state to implement a state−wide law restricting cell use to "hands−free"
devices. Other States, Cities and Counties have also adopted hands−held restrictions including New Jersey, Washington
DC, Connecticut, Chicago (IL), Santa Fe (NM), and cities or counties in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
A current ad campaign by 21st Century Insurance, in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol, urges customers
to "Just Drive" and cites cellular phone use as a fourfold increase in the likelihood of a crash. Courts have already issued
rulings that have found employers liable for accidents caused by an employee using a cell phone while driving. New
York courts have also upheld the state legislature's right to ban the use of hand−held phones as to protect the health,
safety, and welfare of its citizens.
Two bills are currently active in the California Legislature, SB 681 (Simitian−D, Palo Alto), would limit cell phone use
within the State of California to "hands−free" devices while operating a motor vehicle. The bill would impose a $20 first
offender fine, with $50 for each subsequent offense. If passed during this session the state law would take effect on
January 1, 2007 and would fall under Sec. B32−5 of the County ordinance. AB 963 (Garcia−R, Cathedral City), would
restrict drivers with a provisional drivers permit (age 16 to 18) from using a wireless phone while driving unless they are
The National Conference of State Legislatures, www.ncsl.org provides data on academic studies of risk as well as
various bills through out the country that are active, inactive or enacted, regarding distracted driving legislation.