Topic:
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS; TELEPHONE; EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES; STATE POLICE; TRAFFIC REGULATIONS; MUNICIPALITIES; STATISTICAL INFORMATION;
Location:
TRAFFIC REGULATIONS; UTILITIES - TELEPHONE;

OLR Research Report


March 23, 2007

 

2007-R-0260

HAND HELD CELL PHONE PROHIBITION VIOLATIONS AND RELATED QUESTIONS

By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked how many tickets have been written for violations of the law prohibiting the use of hand held cell phones and mobile electronic devices by drivers. You also wanted to know (1) how many of these tickets were written by the state police versus local police, (2) if there was information available on the geographic distribution of the tickets written, and (3) how many emergency calls were made from cell phones in the last year.

SUMMARY

The law prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones and mobile electronic devices by drivers became effective on October 1, 2005. According to information provided by the Judicial Department, a total of 28,827 tickets have been issued for violations of the various provisions of this law during the period from October 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006. Information provided by the State Police suggests that slightly less than 10% of the tickets were written by State Police, meaning that slightly more than 90% appear to have been written by local police.

The 20 municipalities in which the largest number of tickets were written include 11 in Fairfield County, five in New Haven County, and four in Hartford County. These 20 municipalities account for just over 58% of all the tickets written. The largest number of tickets was written in Bridgeport (1,488), followed by Hartford (1,311), and New Haven (1,297). These three cities accounted for 14.2% of all the tickets. The next highest municipality was Darien with 1,257 tickets. More than 1,000 tickets were written in seven municipalities (Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Darien, Woodbridge, Milford, and Windsor).

Since October 1, 2005, when the law went into effect, through the end of 2006, 12,035 offenses have been disposed of through the judicial system. (These numbers do not correlate directly with the number of tickets written.) About two-thirds of the offenses resulted in a finding of guilt through either an adjudication of guilt by the court, a plea, mailing in a fine to the Centralized Infractions Bureau, or bond forfeiture.

In 2006, there were more than 2.3 million emergency 911 calls made. Slightly more than 61% were made from wireless telephones, but it is not possible to determine what proportions of these calls were made from motor vehicles as opposed to fixed locations. The percentage of 911 calls made from cell phones in 2005 was just over 62%.

TICKETS ISSUED

Cell Phone Law Provisions

The Connecticut “cell phone” law actually has several prohibitions. Its main provision prohibits a driver from using a while driving a motor vehicle (1) a mobile telephone to engage in a call while the vehicle is moving unless he uses a hands-free telephone or (2) any mobile electronic device. It defines a “mobile electronic device” as any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more people, including devices for text messaging or paging, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment capable of playing a video game or digital video disk, or equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted. A mobile electronic device does not include audio equipment or any equipment installed in the vehicle to provide navigation CGS 14-296aa(b)). The law also prohibits:

1. a school bus driver from using either a mobile telephone or any other electronic device in a moving bus containing passengers (CGS . 14-296aa(c));

2. drivers under age 18 from using any mobile telephone while the vehicle is moving, whether or not it has a hands-free accessory (CGS 14-296aa(d)); and

3. any driver from engaging in an activity not directly related to the actual operation of the vehicle in a manner that interferes with its safe operation and contributes to commission of a moving violation (CGS 14-296aa(i)).

Tickets Issued

These prohibitions went into effect on October 1, 2005. Based on information provided to us by the Judicial Department, there appears to have been a total of 28,827 tickets written for violations of one of the provisions of CGS 14-296aa between October 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006 (15 months). This ticket data is not broken down by provision of the law so it is not possible to identify which section of the law was the basis for the ticket. However, based on case disposition data currently available through the Judicial Department database, it appears that the vast majority of the tickets written are probably for violation of the law's main provision, e.g., use of a hand held cell phone or mobile electronic device by a driver age 18 or older. It is also not possible to distinguish between whether the reason for the violation was use of a cell phone or use of a mobile electronic device, since they are both prohibited under the same provision of the law.

According to information provided by the State Police, they wrote approximately 2,600 citations for violations of the cell phone law. Based on the assumption that these are part of the total of 28,827 tickets indicated by the Judicial Department, it appears that the State Police were responsible for around 9% of the tickets written and local police for the other 91%.

The town-by-down breakdown of the cell phone law tickets issued since October 1, 2005 provided by the Judicial Department shows that the tickets have been somewhat concentrated within a relatively small number of municipalities. Slightly more that 25% of the tickets were issued in a total of six municipalities. Just over one half of all the tickets were issued in 15 towns. Of the 20 towns that accounted for the highest numbers of tickets issued, 11 are in Fairfield County, five are in New Haven County, and four are in Hartford County. The largest number of tickets issued in any municipality was 1,488 in Bridgeport. A detailed breakdown is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Tickets Issued For Violation of CGS 14-296aa for Period From
October 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006

Municipality

Tickets Issued

Percentage of All Tickets Issued

Cumulative Percentage of Issued Tickets

Bridgeport

1,488

5.2%

5.2%

Hartford

1,311

4.5%

9.7%

New Haven

1,297

4.5%

14.2%

Darien

1,257

4.4%

18.6%

Woodbridge

1,064

3.7%

22.3%

Milford

1,040

3.6%

25.9%

Windsor

1,036

3.6%

29.5%

Fairfield

990

3.4%

32.9%

Greenwich

982

3.4%

36.3%

Westport

847

2.9%

39.2%

Norwalk

707

2.5%

41.7%

Orange

688

2.4%

44.1%

West Hartford

617

2.1%

46.2%

Wallingford

570

2.0%

48.2%

Stamford

564

2.0%

50.2%

Wilton

547

1.9%

52.1%

Trumbull

464

1.6%

53.7%

Manchester

454

1.6%

55.2%

Ridgefield

432

1.5%

56.7%

New Canaan

412

1.4%

58.2%

Total Tickets Issued in 20 Highest Municipalities

16,767

-----

58.2%

Total Tickets Issued in Next 10 Highest Municipalities*

3,181

11.0%

69.2%

Total Tickets Issued in All Other Municipalities

8,879

30.8%

100%

*The 10 municipalities are Wolcott (406), New Britain (392), Southington (368), Newtown (309), Danbury (307), Old Saybrook (297), Waterbury (286), Branford (286), Plainville (271), and Groton City (259). (Another 115 tickets were identified as having been issued in the town of Groton.)

As can be seen in the table, the tickets issued in the three largest cities—Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven—account for a total of 14.2% of all the tickets issued. The 11 municipalities in Fairfield County that are among the top 20 in tickets issued account 8,690 or 30.1% of the total tickets issued. The five New Haven County municipalities in the top 20 account for a total of 4,659 or 16.6% of all the tickets issued. The four Hartford County municipalities in the top 20 account for a total of 3,418 or 11.9% of the total tickets issued.

Case Dispostions

The Office of Fiscal Analysis maintains a database that receives information on case dispositions made through the judicial system. It receives this information from the Judicial Department on a quarterly basis. The information on case dispositions relating to the cell phone law are shown in Table 2. They represent cases disposed through the end of 2006. It is important to note that case dispositions and tickets issued may not be compared directly.

Table 2: Case Dispositions for Violations of CGS 14-296aa

Case Dispositions

October 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006

*Note—Guilty category includes adjudication of guilt, plea, fine mailed to Centralized Infraction Bureau, and forfeiture of bond.

Total Offenses

Guilty*

Failure to Appear

Not Guilty

Nolle

Use of Handheld Cell Phone or Mobile Electronic Device

400

384

0

0

16

Use by Operator of Moving School Bus

1

1

0

0

0

Use of Any Cell Phone by Driver Under Age 18

7

6

0

0

1

Non-driving Related Activity Contributing to Commission of Moving violation

5

5

0

0

0

Case Dispositions

July 1, 2006 through December 3, 2006

 

Total Offenses

Guilty*

Failure to Appear

Not Guilty

Nolle

Use of Handheld Cell Phone or Mobile Electronic Device

11,519

7,480

164

2

3,873

Use by Operator of Moving School Bus

13

9

0

0

4

Use of Any Cell Phone by Driver Under Age 18

15

13

0

0

2

Non-driving Related Activity Contributing to Commission of Moving violation

75

48

3

0

24

EMERGENCY CALLS MADE FROM CELL PHONES

The Office of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications provided us with the following information. In 2006, there was a total of 2,320,050 emergency (911) calls made. Of these, 895,216 or 38.6% were made

from wireline telephones and 1,420,825 or 61.2% were made from wireless telephones. The remaining 4009 emergency calls were made from internet based telephone systems.

In 2005, a total of 2,615,723 emergency calls were made. Of these 982,357 (37.6%) were made from wireline telephones and 1,633,366 (62.4%) were made from wireless telephones.

Although more than 60% of emergency 911 calls are made from wireless telephones, there is no way of determining whether the caller was making the call from a motor vehicle or from a fixed location.

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