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OLR Research Report


February 2, 2009

 

2009-R-0059

TICKETING TRENDS FOR USING CELL PHONES IN VEHICLES

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for information on trends for the issuance of citations for violations on CGS 14-296aa, which generally bars motorists from using hand held cell phones while driving.

The prohibition was adopted under PA 05-159, which went into effect October 1, 2005. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $100, but the fine must be suspended for a first-time offender who buys a hands-free cell phone after the violation but before he or she is fined. OLR report 2007-R-0260 provides further information about this law.

According to the Judicial Department, there were 17,755 citations issued in 2006, 33,384 in 2007, and 38,336 in 2008. The 2008 figure is a 14.8% increase over 2007 and a 115.9% increase over 2006. We have attached data by municipality for each of these years.

There was a notable geographical concentration in ticket-writing. Eight of the 20 municipalities with the highest number of citations in 2008 were in Fairfield County (Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Newtown, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford, and Westport). Collectively, these 20 municipalities accounted for nearly half (47.1%) of the total number of citations issued that year. Fifteen of these municipalities, including seven of the eight Fairfield County municipalities (all except Newtown) were also in the top 20 during the period covered by report 2007-R-0260 (October 1, 2005 to December 31, 2006).

Table 1 presents data for four cities (2000 populations between 100,000 and 125,000), four municipalities with a population of 40,000 to 60,000, and four small towns (populations between 10,000 and 15,000). It indicates there were substantial geographic differences in the numbers of citations issued, even among municipalities of similar size. For example, although Waterbury has approximately the same population as Hartford and New Haven, only one-third as many citations were issued there in 2008. Similarly, Fairfield had more than three times as many citations in 2008 as did its comparison municipalities. There were also differences over time. While most municipalities saw an increase over time, the number of citations issued in New Haven fell from 2006 to 2007. The number of citations dropped dramatically (85%) between 2007 and 2008 in Plymouth.

Table 1: Tickets for Violating the Cell Phone Ban

Municipality

2008

2007

2006

       

Hartford

1,241

1,266

878

New Haven

1,205

768

871

Stamford

632

636

375

Waterbury

386

404

152

       

East Hartford

238

174

59

Fairfield

1,478

1,227

531

Hamden

399

434

86

Meriden

220

98

86

       

Clinton

81

85

64

Plymouth

27

180

8

Stafford

84

22

11

Weston

52

13

25

There were 400 violations processed in FY 06, 27,105 in FY 07, and 36,870 in FY 08 (a case may be processed in a different year than the one in which it was issued). In a majority of cases in each year, drivers paid their fines to the Centralized Infractions Bureau (96% in FY 06, 52% in FY 07, and 53% in FY 08). A substantial proportion of the cases were nolled in FY 07 and FY 08 (35% and 33%, respectively), presumably under the penalty suspension provision.

KM:ts