WDEL ride along reveals cell phone ban under strict enforcement

By Amy Cherry 9:03pm, November 11, 2012 - Updated 5:40am, November 12, 2012
WDEL's Amy Cherry rode with NCCo Police to enforce the state's cell phone ban.
Between now and November 20, operation phone in one hand, ticket in the other, is in full force among law enforcement statewide.

WDEL's Amy Cherry embarked on a ride along with county police to catch several offenders.

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If you feel the urgent need to call a friend or take that emergency phone call, if you don't have Bluetooth, you would be wise to think again. Talking or texting while driving is illegal, and it carries a hefty fine, as one Maryland driver, pulled over at School Bell Road and Route 40 in Bear learned.

"Do you know why I'm stopping you?" asked Corporal Jim Henasey with County Police.

"I think because I had my phone up in the air," said the driver.

"Yes, sir," said Henasey.

"I had it on speaker though," claimed the driver.

"It can't be up to your ear, OK? you have to use the speaker phone down on your lap," says Henasey. "That definitely wasn't speaker phone. He was, had it up to his ear."

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This driver knew what he was doing was wrong, but couldn't believe the penalty, that's a lot more expensive than a speeding.

"It's $106," says Henasey.

"What!? I thought it was like $25," exclaims the out-of-state driver.

"It's like $50, but when you add up all the costs, it ends up being $106," says Henasey.

"It costs $56 to print that?" asks the driver.

"No points, if you want to look at the bright side," Henasey tells the driver.

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Henasey tells me that reaction is typical.

"That was a case of the $106 shock of the total cost of the fine," he says.

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We pulled over five drivers that day that all got tickets for blatantly talking or texting on their cell phones. The fourth driver we pulled over says he had no idea that was a law.

Henasy says he hears all the excuses, like the one from our final driver from New Jersey, one of the first states to enact a cell phone ban, who was stopped on Commons Boulevard.

"Corporal Henasey with the County Police, do you know why I'm stopping you sir?" he asks.

"I got a phone call from my boss about work tomorrow," says the driver.

"Do you hear that one a lot?" I asked.

"That's one of many, the boss, the kids, the wife," says Henasey.

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Henasy says the excuses run the gamut.

"You have the people out there that are really sorry for doing it, and they just tell you right off the bat, 'I was trying to get in touch with my kids, my husband, my work, I'm late for work; there's an emergency,' and then you have the ones that say, 'I wasn't on it,' when you're 100 percent sure they were," he says.

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Now Corporal Henasey only pulled over drivers who were clearly on their phones though looking down repeatedly is likely texting and definitely distracted driving, and you could get pulled over.

"You look down at your cell phone for one second to look down at that caller ID, that takes at least a second, if not two, so you just went almost a football field, and don't even realize it," Henasey says.

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With 450 square miles in New Castle County to cover, you'll never have enough cops, but it was interesting to note, none of the five people pulled over during my ride along were teens. They were mostly middle-aged men. Though only five drivers were cited during WDEL's four-hour ride along, Henasey says he usually nabs double that amount and if you're pulled over, you're definitely getting a ticket.

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