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I usually don't blog about hoax emails, but since I haven't blogged much about anything recently, and cuz I spent a decent amount of time researching and replying to the hoax email, I decided to post my response with a little bit of extra commentary.
Who knows, maybe it'll help inform other people who got sent the following bogus email:
New Driving Fines for 2007
1. Carpool lane - 1st time $1068.50 starting 7/1/07 (The $271 posted
on the highway is old). Don't do it again because 2nd time is going to be double. 3rd time triple, and 4th time license suspended.
2. Incorrect lane change - $380. Don't cross the lane on solid lines
3. Block intersection - $485
4. Driving on the shoulder - $450
5. Cell phone use in the construction zone. - Double fine as of
07/01/07. **Cell phone use must be "hands free" while driving.**
6. Passengers over 18 not in their seatbelts - both passengers and
drivers get tickets .
7. Speeders can only drive 3 miles above the limit.
8. DUI = JAIL (Stays on your driving record for 10 years!)
9. As of 07/01/07 cell phone use must be "hands free" while driving.
Ticket is $285. They will be looking for this like crazy - easy money
for police department.
My BS-alarm goes off automatically whenever I receive an email with "FWD" in the subject but this email wasn't explicitly a forward. Still, the claims in the email seemed suspect, especially the fine dollar amounts. Sure enough, after a little research, I discovered that the email was loaded with factual inaccuracies and half-truths.
First off, this email originally circulated in January 2007 and stated that the "new laws" went into effect 1/1/07, so clearly someone has revived the email by changing the "1" to a "7" and sending it out again for the mid-year date of July 1st. Also, the original email was specific to California, and though the email I received didn't specify, I had already assumed as much so the remainder of my fact-checking was focused on the CA DMV.
Secondly, fines for traffic citations are jurisdictional based off of CA state guidelines so there are no fixed dollar amounts and the fines quoted in this email are ridiculously high, like 3 times the actual amounts.
Also, "hands-free" devices will indeed be required with cellphones for drivers, but NOT UNTIL JULY 2008.
So here's a little specific fact-checking:
#1 thru 4 all have inflated fines. Most of these violations have fines around $150, but again, those fines change county to county and the fines could increase if they are compounded with other multiple violations. As far as I can tell, carpool lane violations still have a MINIMUM $271 fine as stated on the signs. If the law changes, the signs will change.
#5: ALL traffic citation fines can be doubled in construction zones, but using a cellphone without "hands-free" while driving isn't illegal until July 2008.
#6: Everyone over the age of 16, not 18 like the email misstates, is required by law to wear a seat belt when they are in a vehicle. Citing a passenger for noncompliance has always been an option. If the passenger is under 16, the driver, or the parent or guardian if they are present, even if they are not driving, can be cited for the child.
#7: The speed limit is just that, the LIMIT. It is illegal to drive faster than the posted limit, so whether you are going 1 mile, 3 miles, or 100 miles over the limit, you could get a ticket. However, the amount of the ticket does increase at certain intervals of speed over the limit. For example, the statewide schedule for 1-15 mph over the limit is $146. And your chances of getting pulled over for speeding is usually relative to the posted limit. Going 3 miles an hour over a 5 mile per hour limit is probably much more likely to draw attention from authorities than going 3 miles over a 65 mph limit. Also, I didn't find anything in my research to suggest that 3 miles over has any special significance to speeding laws.
#8: "DUI = JAIL" has be the law for decades, so at least that part is true. Drivers under the influence are thrown in jail to sober up for at least a few hours, possibly longer if they are repeat offenders or if they meet other criteria warranting "enhanced penalties" like an extremely high blood-alcohol concentration or a child passenger. I'm not sure if DUI's stay on your record for 10 years as the email states, but based on the factual inaccuracy of the previous "facts" I'm guessing this number is wrong too. And even if the current length of time a DUI stays on your record is indeed 10 years, unless this law went into effect July 1st 2007 like the email states, this "fact" is not entirely true. After a little more research, I discovered the length of time that DUI's are reported on your driving record has indeed increased from 7 to 10 years as of January 1st 2007 but this email falsely implies that prior to 2007, DUI's did NOT get you jail time so I'm not willing yet to declare this one the only truthful fact in the email.
#9: Again, the cellphone ban doesn't go into effect until JULY 1st 2008 so you have a full YEAR before you are required to use your hands-free devices. Still, just because it's legal for one more year does NOT make it any less dangerous. They're making it the law for a reason, duh! But even if someone continues to drive while talking on a cell after the law actually goes into effect, they are only going to pay $20 fine of the first offense, and $50 for repeat violations according to the actual statute. Yet again, the hoax email grossly exaggerates the facts.
But I can't help but wonder, why in the heck would someone go through all the trouble to falsify facts and deliberately spread misinformation? And why don't people fact-check more before they unwittingly perpetuate the hoax?
Clearly this is a case where the facts seem legit. I knew there was a cellphone ban that was passed recenty in CA, but I didn't know exactly when it went into effect until I starting researching it today. In fact, if the carpool lane fine amounts weren't so outrageous, I might've just assumed these "facts" were indeed factual and yelled at drivers on their cellphones, thinking that they were breaking the law.
Maybe the original author of this bogus email was trying scare people into being better drivers.
And for the REAL new driving laws on the books in California in 2007, check out:
- California Department of Motor Vehicles
- California Department of Motor Vehicles (press release)
- Automobile Club of Southern California
'clfy.net/josh' in the phone's web browser and check it out.
After getting flooded with calls, DPS posted a public alert on its Web site warning the e-mail is a hoax.
The Legislature did not pass any new laws limiting cell phone use in cars, and most of the traffic laws legislators approve take effect Sept. 1.
Among the new laws that really take effect are new vision and driving tests when drivers 85 and older renew their licenses, and a person ticketed for driving 95 mph or faster will not be allowed to take a driving safety course to get the ticket dismissed.
Mange said Tuesday that officials believe the hoax started in California. She said officials can do little to stop it other than get the word out that it is fake.
"The Internet is a beautiful thing except when people use it for misinformation," Mange said.