CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. CHP photo

Drivers on their cellphones and drivers illegally using carpool lanes are among the two biggest gripes of Road Warrior readers.

So with CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow dropping by the Petaluma police station last week to hand out traffic safety awards to the officers there, we asked him about CHP enforcement of those violations.

On cellphones, he said it’s his top pet peeve — “it’s such a safety issue.” And the CHP is addressing the problem by trying to educate the public about the law and handing out tickets where appropriate.

“We’re trying to keep the pressure on,” he said.

The CHP is reaching out to junior high school students about cellphone use and texting and hopes they’ll remind their parents about the law when they see mom or dad pick up a cellphone while driving, he said.

Farrow compared the high violation rate of cellphone use to low seatbelt use in the 1980s, saying that like efforts to get people to buckle up, it’ll take time to achieve high compliance with the state’s cellphone law. He said 96 percent of Californians now use seatbelts.

He said he’s convinced “people will come to accept” that using hand-held cellphones and texting while driving are dangerous and they’ll stop.

In addition, he said, advances in voice activation technology will help people move away from holding their phones.

“Technology and time will help,” he said.

On carpool lane violations, Farrow said he understands the frustrations of law-abiding drivers who watch violators speed by and while the CHP does ticket violators, his top priorities for officers are speeders and drunken drivers.

He noted he sees a lot of violations when he’s not in a marked CHP patrol car.

“People are taking a chance” that a CHP officer won’t see them illegally in the carpool lane, he said.

And it’s an expensive ticket, he said. The base fine is $100 but with state and county fees tacked on, the total in Sonoma County comes to $480.

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