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Distracted drivers focus of crackdown

POSTED April 3, 2012 11:03 p.m.

The Turlock Police Department is asking drivers to take notice that they’ll be enforcing a zero tolerance policy for those texting or operating hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel.

The enforcement is part of the Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. Those caught breaking the laws regarding cell phone use will incur a ticket with a minimum fine of $159. Subsequent tickets can raise the fine up to $279.

Distracted driving is more than a nuisance to the other motorists on the road.

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

Additionally, studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.

The same studies report that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in “inattention blindness,” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.

“Turn off your phone and put it out of reach as you get into the car,” said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. “Think before you call or text someone, if there is a chance they may be driving let it wait. It’s not worth it.”

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