Matsen readily admitted that she was on the phone when White pulled her over. She had just moved from Wyoming in August and said she’d been too busy getting three children settled in school to pay much attention to the news. Are people distracted by their phones?
“Yes and no,” she said, pausing for a second.
“Yes, you are distracted. I was talking to my best friend in Wyoming about another friend who was hit [by a vehicle] while he was running. He’s in critical condition.”
She got off with a warning. Others were not so lucky, as White and his squad used an unmarked SUV and three patrol cars to chase down cellphone users on Route 355 between Gaithersburg and Rockville.
White stationed his SUV at the beginning of a left-turn lane near the Shady Grove Metro station and radioed the trio of officers — Jeremy Smalley, Rob Jacarouso and Jeff Innocenti — who parked just out of sight down the road.
“Gold Honda, she’s got it directly up to her nose, talking,” he radioed, and then a few minutes later: “Dodge Durango, has the phone up to her ear.”
They said they hadn’t had to listen to a lot of bellyaching as they gave out a dozen tickets during the first day of enforcement.
“A couple of people said, ‘Oh, yeah, the law went into effect.’ . . . They knew about it,” Smalley said.
On day two, it was a different story.
“She said she was just looking at it,” Jacarouso radioed after one stop.
“Oh, yeah?” White shot back. “Unless it’s a scent phone, she was talking. She had it right up against her nose.”
Later in the afternoon, Innocenti saw a woman pass by in a red Ford pickup with her phone in hand. After he ticketed her — it’s $83 for the first offense, $140 for the second, $160 for the third — he returned to the cruiser shaking his head.
“She said, ‘Speakerphone is hands-free, isn’t it?’ ” he said. “I said, ‘Well, not if you’re holding it in your hand.’ ”
One study equated distracted driving with drunken driving, a comparison with which Innocenti agrees.
“A lot of the time, you’ll see a car driving like they’re DUI, but you get up to them and they’re on their phone,” he said. “And do they cause accidents? Oh, yeah.”