Today’s Lawbreaking Driving ‘Tard

The first thing I noticed about this car, driving near Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, was that it was a rare, older model, turquoise-colored Toyota Celica.  Unfortunately, I then noticed that the young female driver was chatting away on her cell phone, holding the phone up to her ear.  The older woman in the passenger seat is possibly the young driver’s momma.

When we stopped next to each other at a red light, I snapped a few pictures of the driver on her cell phone.  After the first photo, she kept turning away, and she and her passenger muttered something back and forth.  Then I told her that she was breaking the law by talking on her hand-held phone while driving.  The two of them acknowledged my statement between them and laughed.  Then she sped off.

In fact, she was breaking one of two provisions of California’s new cell phone law.  Remember that, under the new law, drivers under the age of 18 may not use cell phones AT ALL while driving, hands-free or no hands-free.

The funny thing is, the driver and her passenger must have thought at first that I was photographing them either because I was attracted to the driver, or because I was a paparazzo who mistook her for someone important.  As if.

21 Replies to “Today’s Lawbreaking Driving ‘Tard”

  1. Dude, bravo! I’ve been tempted to do the same thing, but I’ve never had anyone to operate the camera and I couldn’t do it while driving. The priceless bit would have been to included a license plate. Then again I have testosterone issues as well. How much you wanna bet she might have been driving under a learners permit since Mom was in the passenger seat?

    I have heard that Glendale has issued a few tickets for driving with a cell phone somewhere along the exits off of the 2 and 134. The guy at ATT told me he got one from them at Brand and the 134 getting off the freeway. Other than that I have not heard of anyone getting nailed. The enforcement of it comes to a priority issue and I don’t think the authors of the law realized few agencies have the man power to enforce it.

    Of course I used the law as a reason to shut off my cell and take back my quiet time.

  2. This seems like a pretty crappy use of this blog – to out one teenager and her mom in a city full of crappy drivers and also to post their images online without any permission. Also you told them they were breaking the law? Great job McGruff now the streets are safer for us all.

  3. yep. i normally agree with frazgo on things…but my vote is for neil on this one…i hate citizen police officers when it comes to petty issues. we all have plenty more to worry about.

  4. there was this girl in a large SUV in pasadena this morning who was doing the exact same thing. chatting away, obviously on her cell phone, and of course, drifting into my lane because she’s not paying attention to the fact that there’s a car in the other lane. it’s aggravating.

  5. I will third the use of Metblog for more constructive and less invasive things. I read this blog for good information and ideas. Pissy moaning about one of THOUSANDS of bad drivers in L.A. accomplishes what, again? This kind of whiny excuse for “citizen journalism” doesn’t look good on you, Metblogs.

    And obviously, YOU are just as guilty of inattentiveness for using your camera while driving. Maybe even more so than the cell phone user in the pictures.

    And I also think you’re toeing the legal line by posting these images without permission.

  6. ps…bbxx there is no need to seek permission when posting images gathered in the open public UNLESS they are meant for sale. Even then the permission is needed ONLY if the person is clearly identifiable, and even then it is questionable. Look at the papparazzi. This is clearly not the case.

    If you don’t want to be caught disobeying the law don’t do so in the public realm as it all becomes fair game to be captured and reported.

  7. Frazgo, fair enough. But what say you about how and what these kinds of items benefit the quality and purpose of Metblogs or its readers?

    And, the permission issue doesn’t negate the fact that the photographer was being EQUALLY unattentive while driving.

  8. bbxx I’m not arguing you on those points, only the one that is near and dear to my heart, photographers rights.

    Interesting opinions. I understand them and won’t argue to change your mind. We all have our beliefs, one of mine is to understand and respect the opinions of others.

  9. Neil and bbxx — I do think I’m doing a service here, in 2 ways: (1) by having the drivers notice that I’m photographing them and then telling them (or, if their window is closed, gesturing to them) that their cell phone talking while driving is a no-no, I will hopefully get them to think about and stop what they’re doing. It’s a shame thing. (2) If I get their license plate info, I can try to give this to the police. The goal is to keep you two, Neil and bbxx, as well as the rest of us, safer.

    I also agree with Frazgo that, according to my understanding of the law, when one is in one’s car on public roads, one does not have an expectation of privacy. You can be photographed by the paparazzi, the city’s red light cameras, or me. You can’t drink alcohol, be nude (although I might not complain about that), or do other things that you get to do in private.

    As to whether the post can be described accurately as “pissy moaning” and “whining,” I didn’t think so, but others can judge for themselves.

    I plan to keep doing posts where I catch people breaking the law and local ordinances, whether it be the cell phone law, flagrant violations of local parking ordinances, grand larceny, and otherwise. Some readers like these. Heck, we have a whole category known as “Parking ‘Tards.” I don’t expect that every reader will enjoy or relate to every one of my posts, but we do have a diversity of authors, posts, and viewpoints here, so hopefully other Metblogs posts appeal to you more.

    Finally, as I wrote in the post, I took the photos when stopped at a red light.

  10. I’d like to third or um…fourth or wherever we’re at with this now. Waste of space. That’s my 2 cents. And at the risk of sounding overly PC and sensitive. Am I the only one that’s a little urked by the constant use of the word “‘tard” as a derogation? I’m just sayin…

  11. The photographers rights issue has already been addressed, but c’mon…she’s breaking the law in a public space *and* endangering the public safety. Are you really that concerned with posting her image without permission, or just looking for another point to nit-pick? Who’s whining now? As Matt said above, if these types of posts don’t interest you, there are plenty of others here at b.LA.

    As a Los Angeles motorcycle rider who has had more than one recent brush with death due to some ‘tard more involved their phone conversation than with safely piloting their 2-ton block of speeding metal, I appreciate Matt’s attempt at shaming someone to do the right thing. And I like reading about it here. If he gets only one of these a-holes to think about what they’re doing, even if only for the few minutes they can still see him in traffic, that might be the few minutes that save my life.

  12. Photog here as well so Im aware of the legality of this. You are perfectly within your rights to post this picture but the paparazzi argument is a little thin. A celebrity has a much lower expectation of privacy than say a random 16 year old in a car due to their higher public profile. This is why you can sell a picture of Britney so the papers and not pay her a cent, but youd have to pay me for the same thing (though I don’t know what magazine would pay you for my mug). This is also much different than posting pictures of poorly parked cars (which I find amusing and much more in the spirit of this site) With the car there is essentially no identifying elements there (unless you have personalized plates but then it’s still a long shot to put a face with the car).

    I’m not concerned with the “pissy moany” aspect of this post, as that would describe almost half of the posts on LA Metblogs. That’s a reason Ive read this blog so long, because I relate. Nor am I a “hater” because I am looking for a civilized discourse on these issues. I am just averse to the use of this blog to “shame” people. Regular readers and commenters on any blog site feel at least a small amount of pride and ownership about being part of a community. Like it or not LA Metblogs is a high profile public space and many members of this community could feel ashamed or offended at being associated with this public “shaming”.

    If you want to take her picture and send to the cops, I’m all for it. You want to tell her what you think, that’s great. Paying the proper price for breaking the law is one thing, and the scarlet letter treatment is quite another.

    And yes, as it is often pointed out on every blog “you don’t have to read it” so I guess I just won’t. Cant wait to skip over all the citizen police posts about people who play in the park after sundown, smoke cigarettes on the beach, and water their grass between before 7pm.

    In all seriousness I hate nobody but in fact respect every writer on this site for keeping me informed, entertained and in the loop.

  13. Matt, I’m with you on this one. I almost photographed a woman at a red light this afternoon doing a similar thing, only she was being a little sneakier: Holding her cell in her left hand–but at chest height (using the speaker function). Still chatting away one-handed (and hence, distracted).

    I’ve never considered willful violations of safety-oriented laws “petty”. Red-light-runners, speeders…the deliberate disregard of safety issues for no other reason than personal convenience seems worthy of mention.

    Plus, let’s be honest, it feels good to have a place to bitch about it.

  14. What a waste of all of our time. The law is ridiculous – holding a phone and talking into it isn’t the problem, its TALKING INTO A PHONE that’s the problem. Hands-free devices do absolutely nothing to make the driver more alert. They’re just as distracted as when they hold the phone to their ear.

    Way to support a stupid law. Congratulations – you’ve bought into the ridiculous.

  15. Cephyn — I agree with you that talking on cell phones while driving, regardless of whether the driver is holding the phone or not, is distracting and potentially dangerous. However, I do think that holding the phone to one’s ear is more dangerous, because then the driver cannot even have both hands on the wheel. Apparently, the legislature thought so too.

    It’s also a big question whether it makes sense to ban some actions behind the wheel like driving while holding & talking on the phone, but not other potentially distracting actions like eating burgers, fiddling with the radio, applying makeup, reading the newspaper, etc. I was going to write a separate post about that. Where do you draw the line? Some people apparently think that the law should simply punish “unsafe” or “inattentive” driving evidenced by weaving, drifting into other lanes, etc., regardless of the cause, and not discriminate against specific activities.

    Nevertheless, the law is the law. The legislature and the Governor decided, after a deliberative (and yes, political) process, to ban non-hands-free cell phoning while driving. Those were our elected representatives. If people think it’s a stupid law, they can lobby to change the law and/or vote in new, smarter representatives. I know that bloggers are free thinkers, but the idea of letting individuals decide which laws to follow and which laws to break while driving on public roads scares me more than having this dumb law which can always be changed if it’s really that dumb and ineffective. I wouldn’t feel too safe if drivers could decide for themselves to disobey traffic lights and drunk driving laws, or if they could just ram or shoot people in front of them at intersections if they felt like the person wasn’t starting up fast enough. More importantly, that’s just not the way our legal and political system works.

    The other issue is enforcement. It’s arguably easier to enforce laws banning specific activities like the cell phone law rather than some soft standard such as “driving while inattentive.” But that raises the issue of why some activities are banned and not others, and whether banning more activities gets us too far toward a Big Brother or nanny state.

    I am interested to see whether drivers obey and the police enforce the new cell phone law. If they do not, then perhaps you will agree with me that a law with no credibility, obeyance, or enforcement behind it is worse than not having the law in place at all.

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