Special Report: New phone laws

Holding your phone while driving can result in a ticket. So what does this new law actually say we can do?

Everywhere you look, people are driving while holding their cell phones.

Most are talking on the phone, but many are texting, checking social media, taking a picture or using GPS for directions.

But holding that phone in any way while you're driving has been illegal since January, so why aren't police doing more to stop them?

FOX26 News reporter Liz Gonzalez uncovers what officers are doing to try to stop it and what's keeping them from enforcing the law.

There are only so many hours in a day, and in the scramble to get things done, it may be tempting to handle more than one thing at a time.

For many, multi-tasking starts in the car, by driving and talking on the phone.

We talked to Officer Mark Bradford who has been with the Clovis Police Department for the past 11 years, but has been in law enforcement for 23 years.

In that time, he has seen things change a lot. "Before people had cell phones, they were less distracted," said Officer Bradford. "The only thing that may have been distracting to them was putting on their makeup, eating, adjusting the radio. That was back then. Nowadays, everybody who has a cell phone, iPod, or iPad … they're constantly looking down at it."

For years, it's been against the law to hold the phone and talk while driving, but as of January 1st, it's illegal to hold a phone for any reason while you're driving.

This includes texting, scanning social media, and even using GPS.

Between January and March, Clovis police wrote 117 tickets for holding a cell phone while driving. Fresno police wrote 308, and the California Highway Patrol, Central Division wrote a whopping 549.

A first ticket results in a fine of $162, and the same fine for a second, but get a third strike and you get a point added to your driving record, which could affect your insurance rates.

We followed Officer Bradford to see how the law is being enforced in his department. “In order for me to enforce the law, I actually have to see it, said Bradford. "Somebody down there could be on their phone, and before I see them, they see me.”

Bradford says spotting a driver holding a phone is just one piece of the puzzle. Actually catching up to the driver, can be an even bigger challenge. "By the time I get out, I'm gridlocked or I get the red light and I never catch them," said Officer Bradford.

Bradford says he’s heard a handful of the same excuses. "The excuse, 'Well, my mom texted me, I need to see what she wants. Well, what's gonna be your excuse when you rear end a car?'"

Drivers on their phones at red lights, could get tickets, too. "The bottom line is you had control of your vehicle. You're on the roadway. The car is in drive and it is running. Therefore, you are driving even if the vehicle is not in motion. You are still in physical control of the vehicle,” said Officer Bradford. “It could wait. If it's that important, pull over. It only takes a second to make a vital mistake."

The law is even more strict when it comes to drivers under the age of 18. They cannot use any cell phone, even if they have a hands free device.