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Posts from the "Cell Phones" Category

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When You Just Gotta Get Your Streetsblog No Matter Where You Are

Mobile_SF_Sblog.jpgWe're very happy to announce that all you brilliant and dedicated Streetsblog readers can now take your favorite blog with you almost anywhere, even when your service is a bit dodgier than you'd prefer.  Introducing the beta Streetsblog Mobile for your handheld, a stripped down version of the blog for your phone's browser, one we hope facilitates reading while you're on BART or in that droning client meeting and you just have to keep up on that comment thread about personal rapid transit.

We want to stress the "beta" portion of this endeavor and we want you to help us make it better. You'll notice that when you log into your phone's browser, the interface should be much simpler and should load faster than before. The application should work on most mobile devices with web browsers, though if yours doesn't work, let us know. You can add your witty and erudite comments at the bottom of the posts and there is a "tips@sf.streetsblog.org" email for citizen reporting and urgent updates that we should know about.  

Please take a second to load Streetsblog Mobile and tell us what you think.  We'd like your feedback and your help improving our application.  
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Government Still Taking Hands-Off Approach to Cell Phoning While Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was
prepared six years ago to seek broad limits on cell phone use by
drivers — with or without a hands-free device — but shelved its plans
for fear of alienating Congress and chat-loving voters, the New York
Times reported today.

distraction.jpg(Photo: textually.org)

The
story suggests that senior U.S. DOT officials may have played politics
with safety data, although no hard evidence of influence by the cell
phone or auto industries was uncovered.

Perhaps the most newsworthy element of the story, then, is its minor mention of NHTSA’s "current policy … that people should not use cell phones while driving."

This is true, albeit buried in an obscure section of the agency’s website:

Q. Is it safe to use hands-free (headset, speakerphone, or other device) cell phones while driving?

A. The available research indicates that whether it is a hands-free or
hand-held cell phone, the cognitive distraction is significant enough
to degrade a driver’s performance.  This can cause a driver to miss key
visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.

It
appears that while NHTSA declines to release the findings on distracted
driving that it first got in 2003, the agency is officially (and
quietly) warning that cell phone use of any kind increases the risk of
a crash.

Read more…

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Muni Reissues Notice Reminding Its Drivers of Cell Phone Ban

3596785034_a9bf5cf06b.jpgA Muni driver on the 24 spotted yapping on a cell phone just this week. Flickr photo: peephole
We're not sure exactly what sparked this bulletin -- other than recent crashes around the country involving transit drivers using cell phones -- but Muni sent a reminder to its drivers this morning that they are not only not allowed to use a cell phone while operating a transit vehicle, they cannot even display one. The bulletin (PDF) is signed by new Chief Safety Officer James Dougherty and Chief Operating Officer Ken McDonald. The rules state:
1. Transit operators are not permitted to display or use a cellular phone, PDA, hand-held or hands-free devices, while operating a transit vehicle.
2. Transit operators are not permitted to read, write or send emails or text messages while operating a transit vehicle.
3.  Cell phones, PDA’s or any personal electronic vehicle must be turned off while operating a transit vehicle.
4. If an employee must make an emergency call (911), the transit vehicle must be stopped in a safe location and you must exit the compartment before making the call.

The notice goes on to warn drivers that they face disciplinary action, including termination, if caught using a cell phone.

"The reissued bulletin reflects the importance that we place on our operators and all of our employees to follow the safest procedures possible," said MTA spokesperson Judson True. "We simply cannot tolerate cell phone use by our operators."

True said anyone who spots an operator using a cell phone should call 311 immediately, and their operators will call central control and "get an inspector to the scene as quickly as possible and deal with it." He said seven operators who work on the rail side -- cable cars, streetcars and LRVs -- have been suspended in the past six months for using cell phones. And he was waiting to get numbers on bus drivers, who carry the majority of Muni passengers.

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Would Chron Find Walking and Chewing Gum “Argh” Hard, Too?

meter_cover.jpgThe biggest menace to motoring since pedestrians. Photo: Matthew Roth
Dear San Francisco Chronicle:

Your story today on SFPark is a new low, infantilizing a parking management pilot that is the envy of municipalities across the country and has the attention of cities as far-flung as Tokyo, Japan. For an agency that is getting more than enough bad publicity on things that it does poorly--and we're the first in line to harp on the negative--the MTA deserves credit for coordinating with the Port to develop the largest and most sophisticated parking management system in the world, which will allow city managers to finally measure with precision the driving and parking patterns in San Francisco so that the streets can become more efficient and less congested.

How do you cover this giant leap for parking-kind? You exaggerate a simple learning curve for a new multi-space meter as though it were a technological Berlin Wall.

"These newfangled meters take much more skill to operate than simply dropping coins into a slot," writes Rachel Gordon, who I'm hard pressed to believe took this editorial tack on her own, given that she rides transit regularly, has been covering transportation issues for awhile and isn't as bound to the windshield perspective as her editors seem to be.

Just how much more skill do these "newfangled meters" take?

Drivers have to remember the number assigned to their space and then log in the information on a keypad. Then they have to decide whether to pay with a credit card, debit card or coins, and finally they have to figure out how to select how much time they want.

To steal from SNL's Weekend Update: Really? Really?!?

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Drivers Are Running the Red Light at Fell/Masonic, Imperiling Cyclists

Fell_Masonic_crash.jpgBicycle hit by a car at Fell and Masonic on December 13th, 2008

Last September, San Francisco's city attorney asked Judge Peter Busch to allow an exemption to the long-standing bicycle injunction so the MTA could improve the city’s second most dangerous intersection for cyclists, where Fell Street meets Masonic Street.  Even after the MTA adjusted signalization and gave cyclists a separate green light, cars are running the red light and hitting cyclists.

The latest collision happened Saturday, around 4pm, to Cindy Asrir, as she was riding bicycles with her 10-year-old daughter on the Panhandle Greenway after spending the afternoon in Golden Gate Park.  At Fell and Masonic, they waited for the bicycle light to turn green and then started across the street.  

In an interview, Asrir described what happened as she and her daughter entered the crosswalk. She said there were also several pedestrians crossing when a white SUV pulled through the red light, but stopped short of them.  A second car ignored the red signal and darted around the SUV, slamming into Asrir, knocking her up on the hood of the vehicle, and launching her to the pavement.  Asrir hit her head hard, though she credits her helmet with preventing further injury.  

According to witnesses, the driver had been talking on her cell phone. Later, she was not allowed to leave in her car.

A police report has yet to be filed in the case and Park Station police would not release any details about the crash, including possible citations and charges.

Though obviously shaken from the event and upset that the new light hasn’t improved things, Asrir was grateful that her daughter, who trailed behind her by a foot, had not been the one struck, nor a mother with a child in a stroller who was just behind them.

“I used to always be scared of that intersection,” said Asrir. “But I was so happy when they put in the light.  Now I’m scared of the intersection again.”

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California’s Toothless Cell Phone Law

124559186_587db36f83.jpg

You see them everywhere. Drivers yakking on their handheld cell phones despite a California law that's been on the books for more than six months now that makes it illegal.  So, is anyone getting ticketed? Yes, but unfortunately it's a toothless law.

Drivers who use handheld phones can be pulled over for violating the law. No other reason is needed. The California Highway Patrol has issued over 47,000 tickets since it went effect last July. The Golden Gate Division, which oversees the nine county Bay Area, has written 8,300 of those tickets. It's hard to tell how the law is being enforced in San Francisco because SFPD does not track the number of citations its officers have issued.

As much as I would like to think a cell phoning driver involved in a crash will face consequences, or at the very least be forced to pay a hefty settlement, liability and damages are two different things, according to Greg Brod of the Brod Law Firm.  There would still need to be proof the driver was negligent but a jury could weigh in the fact that a driver was using a handheld in liability cases. Greg blogs about these issues and recently wrote about the new texting ban that took effect this month.

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The National Safety Council just called for a nationwide ban on using a cell phone while driving, either handheld or hands-free, and a law that follows their recommendation could have real safety impacts. Brod said there are school districts all around the country that still don't have a policy preventing school bus drivers from talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.

What makes the California law toothless is that a ticket given for violating the law is not a moving violation, and doesn't go on your driving record as a point.  DUI is a two-point violation, speeding a one-point violation. If it doesn't go on your record your insurance company doesn't know about it, and it doesn't raise insurance rates, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.   It is possible that drivers will pass off the $50 ticket as the cost of doing business.

Flickr photos:  Andrew Ciscel and Jonny Garlic

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