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More distracted drivers catch notice of law enforcement

POSTED May 24, 2012 5:41 p.m.

Law enforcement’s focus on distracted drivers for the state-wide enforcement campaign in April resulted in an increase of 5,000 citations.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol and 265 local law enforcement agencies issued over 57,000 tickets in April to drivers who were using a hand-held cell phone or texting. Another 3,800 citations were handed out for other distracted driving violations. This number is up from the 52,000 tickets issued in April of 2011.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing that the problem of cell phone use for talking and texting while driving is not going away anytime soon,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “There are those who understand the dangers and have curtailed their use, while others think the hazards apply to everyone else but them. We can’t stop until we convince everyone that they are putting their own life and others around them at risk with this perilous behavior.”

In addition to the enforcement efforts, the OTS continued the “It’s Not Worth It!” public awareness campaign with TV and radio commercials, the Caltrans changeable message signs over highways, DMV messaging in field offices, plus internet, social media and other outreach.

The “Don’t Be a Distracted Driving Zombie” theme this year emphasized how up to 37 percent of brain functioning needed for driving gets switched to cell phone talking, making the driver severely lacking in ability to safely drive.

Recently OTS released the results of their second statewide cell phone observational survey that showed more than 10 percent of drivers were talking or texting while driving, representing hundreds of thousands of drivers at any given time.

The cell phone use figures show drivers 16 to 25 years of age are talking or texting at a rate of 18 percent, up from 9 percent in 2011.

The State’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan is developing tactics to combat distracted driving, such as formulating plans to increase the data and research available to more accurately understand and combat the problem.

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