More often than I like, I suggest you learn from my mistakes. This time, I’ve learned from the mistake of a 21-year-old college student. She wants to share her $490 lesson learned but doesn’t want to share her name.
She was driving along Pecos Road along a stretch that goes from 45 mph, down to 35 mph and back up to 45 mph. She was nabbed in the 35 mph stretch going 46 miles an hour. Clearly a speed freak.
A Las Vegas police officer ticketed her for speeding. Then the officer added a second citation for failing to pay full attention while driving. She had been talking on her cell’s speaker phone while speeding.
Did you know there’s a legal presumption that she was not paying attention if she was using a cell phone while committing a traffic violation?
Efforts to make it illegal to drive while talking on a cell phone have failed repeatedly in Nevada.
But this failure-to-use-due-care citation essentially imposes a ban on cell phone use if you’re committing any traffic violation.
And in Las Vegas, who isn’t speeding?
Well, maybe the guy in the fast lane who slows down while talking on his cell phone.
The student’s ticket listed a $490 fine for two violations — $300 for speeding and $190 for not paying full attention to driving. She could be thwacked with one point on her driver’s license for speeding and four points for the cell phone. If she gets 12 points over a year, her license could be suspended for six months.
Even Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie thinks most people don’t know talking on the cell phone can create an add-on citation. I certainly didn’t know.
Las Vegas attorney Richard Harris, who owns Ticket Busters, started noticing about two years ago that the citation for not paying full attention while driving included cell phone use.
“I don’t know if it’s a product of the economic times, a revenue builder or some executive branch decision to impose a cell ban without a law,” he said. Naturally, he was on a cell phone and driving during the interview.
Harris explained to the ignorant (me) how Ticket Busters works.
“It’s a high-volume business, and for $50 per citation, a lawyer goes to court and tries to negotiate a lesser plea, perhaps a dismissal of a count or a reduction of a fine,” Harris said. “You never show up. You give us a copy of the ticket, and we make the scheduling and appearance and negotiate.”
All he can guarantee is that you’ll save time. He can’t promise the judge will dismiss a citation, waive points or reduce fines.
Harris admitted people think Ticker Busters and similar businesses are shady because it sounds like ticket-fixing when it’s actually the same thing any driver can do, except it eats up their time.
Gillespie opposes businesses such as Harris’ even though Harris is a friend.
“The way it’s promoted, it gives the indication if you get a ticket, they sort of make it go away. That’s the wrong message to send to the driving public.”
Gillespie added, “The inconvenience aspect of getting a ticket keeps people from doing that act again, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
If the Nevada Legislature wants to ban cell phone use or emulate California by saying only a hands-free cell phone is legal while driving, then do it. Make it illegal.
That way people know it’s illegal and, if they violate it, they know what to expect.
But be up front. Don’t back door it. Let people decide whether it’s worth $190 or more to make that call while speeding.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.