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April 23, 2014

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Checkpoint draws protesters opposed to the method, but not the message

Police pulling over drivers who are violating law by using their cellphones

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Leila Navidi

Members of Bikers of Lesser Tolerance, a Second Amendment advocacy group, warn motorists using their cellphones of Las Vegas Metro Police’s Traffic Bureau patrol near Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012.

Motorist Cellphone Ban

Rich Brown of Sacramento, Calif., and part of a group called Bikers of Lesser Tolerance, a Second Amendment advocacy group, warns motorists using their cellphones of Las Vegas Metro Police's Traffic Bureau patrol near Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. Launch slideshow »

David Stilwell and a band of motorcyclists parked their bikes Friday afternoon close to the Long John Silver's on Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway. Nearby, a group of Metro Police — also on motorcycles — waited.

Stilwell, joined by about 10 of his friends wearing black leather jackets, some with firearms resting in holsters on their hips, stood along the sidewalk waving signs that read "Police Checkpoint Ahead."

But up ahead wasn't a typical DUI checkpoint; the officers on Flamingo Road were pulling over drivers on cellphones.

"Police enforcement should be up front," said Stilwell, of Las Vegas.

Stilwell's beef was with police checkpoints in general, not the new law that prohibits motorists from texting or talking on cellphones while driving.

"I see people with a full bowl of cereal with milk in it on their way to work," said Stilwell, adding that there is no law that keeps drivers from eating on the run.

The signs served to warn drivers, Stilwell said. "We're not breaking the law."

Sgt. Peter Kisfalvi, with Metro's traffic section, agreed the group wasn't breaking the law.

Kisfalvi stood outside a nearby building watching the eastbound traffic cross the intersection while also keeping an eye on the Stilwell's group.

Maryland Parkway and Flamingo Road is on the department's top 10 list of collision-prone intersections and it's the fourth intersection Kisfalvi and his unit was patrolling this week to enforce the new law.

"Green Chevy Blazer. The phone is in her left hand," Kisfalvi said into a walkie-talkie. "White Toyota two-door. Her phone is in her right hand."

Since Oct. 1, officers had been told to give warnings to motorists caught on cellphones. Now since Jan. 1, anyone caught with a cellphone will be fined, he said.

Fines start at $50 and increase to $250, depending on the number of violations.

Humberto Hernandez of Las Vegas seemed calm and understanding when he was pulled over Friday and given a citation.

"I was calling," he said. "Next time, no more."

Other drivers, like DJ Spears, weren't so relaxed.

"I've just had a (bad) week," said Spears, who started to tear up as she explained that Monday her dog died and she was on her phone getting directions to pick up health insurance.

"I was being as careful as I could be, but it does take attention away from driving," she said.

Spears resolved to buy a Bluetooth, which is allowed under the new law.

The law exempts firefighters, medical personnel and police officers who are responding to an emergency, and people using their phones to call 911, Kisfalvi said.

Officers issuing citations that day were sure to explain the new law to the drivers.

The extra patrol was to promote safety and increase awareness, said Kisfalvi.

During the week, officers made around 260 stops and wrote more than 230 citations, said Kisfalvi, adding that his unit arrested a person with a felony warrant, another for misdemeanor offenses and another for DUI.

"The message of 'hang up and drive' is much more important then writing a citation," he said. "I'd rather not write the citation."

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  1. Why didn't they do these checkpoints during the *warning* period if they wanted to get the safety message out?

    This smells like nothing more than a new tax, no matter what others might think.

  2. haha, i laugh at people who drive carz

  3. Having had a cellphone since they first came out several decades ago in briefcase form, I am somewhat relieved that commonsense has been legislated because of the widespread abuse of these devices. If you have such a phone, odds are, you also have VOICEMAIL AND TEXT MESSAGING.

    While driving, please let those calls go to your voicemail or text message and wait until you can safely attend them when you are safely and securely parked somewhere!!!

    And if you are addicted to answering every communication, then please invest in a Bluetooth hands-free device to comply with the law, at the very least. Either these devices serve us or WE end up serving them. They were intended to be a convenience, not a compulsion. Sorry.

    So many tragedies and lives could have been saved if people used commonsense.

    Thank you.
    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Flamingo and Maryland Parkway were lit up like Christmas Trees Friday evening. I thought that it might have been a gang fight, but only cell phone use.

    Don't call home ET, just get home and keep ya mouth shut.

  5. "I was so distracted, talking away on my cell phone, that I rolled right up to the checkpoint with that phone stuck to my ear, rolled down the window with my 'free hand', and asked the officer what the heck was going on here"...

    I'm not sure what's worse; that so many people seem so genuinely clueless in this town, or that in the first week of 2012, Las Vegas has taken on the look of a city with a ton of extra police activity...

    I'm an advocate of the new law.
    The 'cell phone while driving' thing is beyond out of hand...
    I'm just wondering if there is a line between 'ramping up enforcement for this new law' and 'let's see just how much money we can generate here!'

  6. It's all about the money, honey! You take 230 times $50 and tell me what Metro's "take" is. Enough said - it's all about the money, always has been! NHP is using binoculars on 95 to catch drivers using cellphones - so what's next, a law stating your hands must be at the 10 and 2 position on the wheel or you'll be ticketed?

  7. One my freinds just paid $475.00 for use of a cell phone while driving thru Palm Springs Ca.

  8. Good law, but free America should not get used to police stopping all and sundry just because they can.

    On the other hand if the motorcycle cops are only chasing down and targeting people their look out has identified as scofflaws then that is NOT a checkpoint.

  9. I use my cell all the time while driving, but not texting...which I generally avoid. I find texting is impersonal, and a conversation is much better. However, before the law was passed and is forcing us to be compliant, I bought a hands free cable which plugs into my ear (ear bud) and I really enjoy using it even while not in the car. Try to talk on a cell and use both hands - it crimps your neck ! Unfortunately, when receiving a call and having to find the cable, plug it into the phone & my ear, it really distracts my driving much more than simply picking up the phone & putting it on speaker or just putting it up to my ear & driving with one hand instead of two. All I can say is that I'm proud to have been accident-free for 25 years. Not everyone is talented in multitasking, paying attention to what they're doing while doing other things. I understand the law and why it was passed, but we already had a distracted driving law on the books....so this really is just another way for the law to get into your life and try to control you. Sad to say, but we are losing our freedoms in this "free" country.

  10. "am somewhat relieved that commonsense has been legislated"

    Wow. Has anyone been paying attention to anything, ever? Common sense cannot be legislated, morality cannot be legislated, lifespans cannot be legislated.

    When will we grow up as a nation and get over our fantasy that government can save us from ourselves?

  11. I was pulled over this week at one of those checkpoints and I didn't even have a phone on me. I was resting my chin on my left hand, which was propped on the arm wrest, while stopped at a light. I saw the undercover cop, he looked right at me and barked something into his radio. When the light turned green, both hands back on the wheel and away I went. 15 seconds later, a motorcycle cop pulls me over for talking on my cell phone.

    Even after I explained I don't have a phone on me, he was insistent on writing me a ticket! Once I asked for him to call the undercover guy, who is the boss, I was given my information back with no ticket. No ticket, but still interrupted for about 10 minutes on the side of the road.

    Moral of the story, just deny it, they can't prove it. Then what's next? They confiscate and search your phone downloading all your contacts, call history, text messages, emails, bank account access and web history? Would all you pro-law people be OK with that? If the cop mistakes you for being on the phone, and you honestly deny it, what happens when he orders you to hand your phone over so he can investigate?

  12. "It's all about the money, honey! You take 230 times $50 and tell me what Metro's "take" is."

    lvelegante -- you almost got the tally right. Add on the fact local judges got together recently and upped the bail on misdemeanors like this to $1,000. So "take 230 times" that and Metro's "take" is closer to a quarter million for their week's work on just one intersection. Throw into the mix it also creates a criminal record and you'll start to grasp what a can of worms this law created.

    "Makes you feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game." -- Bob Dylan "Hurricane"

  13. It does not make a difference what Metro's take is. If you are driving put the damn cell phone down, regardless of how superior a driver you think you are. If you drive distracted, it will catch up with you in the end, probably resulting in injury to another innocent party. Your time is no more valuable than mine, and your inability to comply with the law is an indicator of your arrogance and elevated level of self importance.

    If you do need to make, or take a call and do not have hands free equipment, pull over into a parking lot and take the call or text.

    And if you do not own some type of hands free device by now, and drive the roads here in the state, you really have no intent of complying with the law until caught.

  14. I can understand the law and that people should obey it, but setting up check points seems to be just a money making deal for metro. If they were so concerned about people using their cell phones, why didn't they set up check points before when there was no fines? It is all about the money, nothing more, nothing less.

  15. While I agree wholeheartedly with the "hang up and drive" theory. It's government getting into my life even further that I don't like.

    So, most mature and intelligent adults go pop for a Bluetooth and be done with it. Then there are the defiant few who insist on talking and texting and the hell with the law! Nothing is that important that you must immediately start dialing the second you leave the house. Stay home and make your call. Our lives were far less complicated BEFORE the cellphone. I know mine was and never once did I have an immediate, urgent reason to make a phone call while driving! It's all just mindless chit chat. BUT...I'm getting a little tired of the government making a law for this, and a law for that, and another law for whatever.
    I want LESS GOVERNMENT in my life, NOT MORE! As for Metro's 'take', I'm sure it'll go into the wrongful death coffers for the next person unlucky enough to get "center massed" by Metro on a whim!

    I'm so happy to be getting out of Las Vegas, can't wait to get away from the ever increasing number of whackjobs in this city!

  16. KillerB states:
    "Throw into the mix it also creates a criminal record and you'll start to grasp what a can of worms this law created."
    Actually, a minor traffic violation is an infraction, not a "criminal" offense. (I learned that in traffic court a few years back). While it will be on your DMV printout, it is not going to create a criminal record.
    Since all hands on phone users (while driving) are knowingly breaking the law, I consider this sort of police action perfectly o.k.
    I do have a problem with the crosswalk stings where an undercover officer steps out in front of you for the sole reason of creating a "violation" the driver otherwise wouldn't have made. Since that officer was only stepping out to create violators, not to actually cross the road on the way to somewhere.
    I am 100% in favor of DUI and license checkpoints, as well as the phone violation sweeps.
    Here in California every other female (20-50 age) in a Lexus seems to think the phone law does not apply to them.
    That $475 Palm springs ticket mentioned above was obviously for a multi time repeat offender.
    If you don't want a ticket, stay off of the phone.

  17. Lots of whining about this law, mostly by those who break it.

    Don't yak on the phone while driving and you won't get a ticket.

    If your phone is your life, you don't have one.

  18. "Actually, a minor traffic violation is an infraction, not a "criminal" offense. (I learned that in traffic court a few years back). While it will be on your DMV printout, it is not going to create a criminal record."

    Bakersfield -- your ignorance is showing. Read the actual law, SB 140 (Enrolled) -- "A person who violates any provision of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor..."

    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

  19. "The part of the law that I do NOT agree with is the exemption: The law exempts firefighters, medical personnel and police officers who are responding to an emergency."

    Harley521 -- almost didn't see you there in the "untrusted" section. Actually there's 3 more classes exempted. Look under subsection 4 @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2...

    "Its makes no difference whether its a bowl of cereal, the law is clear, no hand device will be in used when driving."

    express445 -- and I thought Bakersfield was ignorant! Go to the above link and read under (1). No bowls of cereal there. So the "non-conformance" is right and you're wrong.

    "Indifference to personal liberty is but the precursor of the State's hostility to it." -- United States v. Penn, 647 F.2d 876 (9th Circuit, 1980), Judge Kennedy dissenting

  20. In California, the CHP will cite you for eating while driving. Any activity that distracts a driver is a citation.

    Rights are the way a person looks at them, but there is no right to eating while driving. Putting mustard and mayo on a Turkey San, and a taking a bite is not a Constitutional Guarantee. Put down the Mayo and drive, or:

    If you are hungry, pull over, stop and finish the Turkey San. Learn to relax and to Bell with multi-tasking. Relax. Do one thing at a time and enjoy it. Life is too short to do anything otherwise.

  21. KillerB,
    My comment was based on what a judge told me, as well as the 100+ others in the courtroom that day (in 2009). He stated "none of you are criminals". Making the comment that an "imfraction" (traffic violation) is not a "criminal" offense, but merely an "infraction" (one that can of course be corrected with a few hundred dollars). He did reduce my $270 fine to $100! Maybe Nevada sees it differently than here in California. I was merely stating what a California Judge said.
    Any speed of more than 25 over the limit is considered more than an infraction, and can lead to arrest.
    Metro should also be taking digital photos of the violators in these phone stings, would weed out a large number of the "I didn't do it" crowd when the evidence is shown to them.
    They do have the cell phone sweeps here too. I think they also look for seat belt / child seat violators.
    Note to drivers, Stay off of the phone while in traffic and you will not be cited! Any cop will tell you the best way to avoid a ticket is not to give them any reason to stop you.

  22. The real question we should all be asking is whether or not this the best use of Metro officers and the extra funds needed to pay for these checkpoints?

  23. The only conclusion I can come to is that Metro is overstaffed. I suggest an immediate hiring freeze and some pink slips if Metro has these kinds of extra resources.