Where You're More Likely to Get a Talking Ticket

The threat of a $100 ticket doesn’t always stop drivers from hanging up their cell phone while behind the wheel.

"The majority of people if they can get away with something they are going to do it," said Cathy Handy of Hartford.

But not everyone is getting away with it.

Statewide, 38,336 citations were issued in 2008. That’s a 115% increase from 2006, the first full year it was illegal to talk on a handheld phone while driving.

But still, not enough people are talking hands free.

Katie Amato of Manchester says it’s simply, “a bad habit. I don't even think about it. I pick it up and say I shouldn't be on the phone."

A look at the numbers shows your chances of getting a ticket can be greater depending on where you drive.

Check out the number of tickets police departments issued in these cities:

     - Hartford 1,241
     - New Haven 1,205
     - Waterbury 386

The town where you really don’t want to get caught yapping and driving – Fairfield.  Even though it’s smaller than the major cities listed above, Fairfield Police wrote a whopping 14,078 tickets in 2008.

Overall, you’re most likely to get a ticket in Fairfield County.  Eight of the top 20 ticket-issuers were in Fairfield County. They are:

     - Bridgeport
     - Darien
     - Fairfield
     - Newtown
     - Norwalk
     - Ridgefield
     - Stamford
     - Westport

Some police departments are taking talking lightly.

"Our officers take a proactive approach to it and we do make several stops a day for cell phone use by drivers," said Sgt. Charles Smedick with the Plainville Police Department.

Plainville officers wrote 460 tickets last year for cell phone violations.

Our NBCConnecticut.com crew rode along with a Plainville patrol officer one recent afternoon.

Within one hour, he stopped three drivers for talking on a cell phone. One of the drivers continued to talk on his cell phone, even as the officer was writing out the ticket!

Some say the way to get more people to put down their cell phone and pick up their hands free device is to change current state law.

The law says first-time offenders can avoid paying the $100 ticket, if they buy a hands free device and mail the receipt in with the ticket.  Of the 36,870 infractions processed by the state last year, 33% of them were thrown out under that provision.

"I think that the law needs to come off the books as far as giving that free ride,” said Sgt. Smedick.

It’s an issue that could come up at the State Capitol.  Representative Richard Roy, a democrat from Milford, championed the original cell phone legislation.  He agrees it’s time to remove the exemption for first-time offenders.

"I agree with that and I'm talking with the chairs of the Transportation Committee and hope to get something done, if not this year then we'll start right at the beginning of next year and get that through,” said Rep. Roy said.

Until then, you can be sure police officers will still try to get drivers to hang up by handing out tickets.

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