Habit of talking on cell tough to drop

When Philadelphia police began enforcing the city’s ban on motorists using handheld cell phones last December, skeptics said it wouldn’t be long before cops put down the pens and drivers picked up the phones.

Well just over a year later, police may put down their pens — to give their hands a break. According to department statistics, more than 17,700 tickets have been issued through Dec. 1, an average of about 48 tickets per day during the first 12 months. That rate has remained steady since May when cops had issued about 7,600 tickets, according to data provided to Metro.

“It’s kind of filtered into the police department,” said Lt. Ray Evers of Police Public Affairs. “It’s something that’s like a norm now. It’s just something that’s kind of ingrained like other things that police officers do.”

What hasn’t changed much, if at all, is drivers’ habits. Standing at any intersection in Center City, motorists can be seen gabbing matter-of-factly on their phones or peering down at screens just out of view.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee, one of the authors of the legislation, admitted that the ban “hasn’t had totally the effect we wanted.” Yet, he said Council wasn’t inclined to legislate any further. “I think it’s more that people are taking the chance or become so used to it, they’re almost oblivious to it.”

The law

The ban on using handheld cell phones while driving includes motorcyclists, bicyclists, skaters and skateboarders. The fines for talking or text messaging on a handheld begin at $75 and increases up to $300. Violations are not categorizes as moving violations, meaning no points or insurance premium concerns. A vehicle must be in operation.

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