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Police Complaints Board Recommends Steps to Increase Public Awareness of District's Cellular Phone Law

Thursday, September 13, 2007

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), submitted a report today to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier proposing a long-term public education campaign to heighten awareness of the Distracted Driving Safety Act of 2004.

The Act, which prohibits motorists from using cellular phones or electronic devices while driving in the District unless the telephone or device is equipped with a hands-free accessory, has not been well publicized by the District or regularly enforced by MPD.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, from August 2004 to March 2007, more than 20,000 drivers were ticketed for violating the law.  Thirty-two percent were District residents and 68 percent were from out-of-state, including Maryland and Virginia. 

There are no signs on major roads entering or passing through Washington, such as Interstate 395, Interstate 295, the 14th Street Bridge, Route 1, Route 50, or any major streets, informing drivers of the Act.

As a result, OPC has received complaints from members of the public – District residents and visitors to Washington – who received tickets for using a mobile device while driving even though they were unaware of the law.  The agency has also received at least 18 complaints from citizens claiming that MPD officers were violating the law.

“The District has been lacking in its efforts to publicize and enforce the cellular phone law,” said Philip K. Eure, executive director of OPC. “Implementing a sustained, long-term public awareness campaign will send a message that the city is serious about enforcing the Act, thereby reducing the dangers caused by drivers who are distracted while talking on their phones.”

PCB recommended the following measures to increase public awareness of the Act:

  • Placing signs at major approaches to the District alerting drivers to the law;
  • Using electronic display boards in the District to remind drivers of the law;
  • Providing informational materials to mobile phone retailers and car rental companies;
  • Providing informational materials to hotels, visitor centers, museums, and other places of interests; and
  • Providing continued training to MPD officers on the importance of enforcing and complying with the law.

To view a full copy of PCB's full report and recommendations, click on the link below:

Steps to Increase Public Awareness of District's Cellular Phone Law [PDF]