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Law enforcement cracks down on distracted driving

POSTED April 8, 2011 9:27 p.m.

It’s no LOL matter and law enforcement isn’t JK when it comes to texting while driving.

To address a growing problem of distracted driving law enforcement from across the state is cracking down on those whose attention is diverted while behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched the first ever National Distracted Driving Awareness Month for April. As part of the national campaign, the California office of Traffic Safety gave a grant to the California Highway Patrol for a statewide crackdown.

In addition, local police and sheriffs’ departments will be adding several ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement days throughout the month.

"OTS is proud to both help provide the CHP with the additional resources they need to combat this problem and to sign up over 275 local law enforcement agencies to join in this kickoff campaign," said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. "This is a problem that threatens to grow even larger and faster if California's drivers are not convinced that mobile device use is dangerous."

Distracted driving represents a range of activities that impact a driver’s visual, auditory, physical or cognitive abilities when driving, including eating, putting on make-up and changing music.

Inattention while behind the wheel proved to be especially deadly in 2009 as 116 people lost their lives as the result of a collision in which at least one driver was distracted. More than 17,000 others were injured under similar circumstances, according to the CHP.

"When you're behind the wheel of a vehicle, any distraction can be serious, even life-threatening. Texting, especially, while driving is not only illegal, it is just not a good idea," said Farrow. "Most of these crashes can be prevented if the drivers change their behavior and focus on driving."

Drivers who use handheld 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. In addition, 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, according to the CHP data.

The first distracted driving “zero tolerance” campaign of April, aimed at citing drivers who use their handheld cell phone to talk or text, just concluded following statewide and regional enforcement/awareness efforts Tuesday.

The two-day campaign resulted in the following citations issued by CHP, sheriff deputies and police officers in the Central Valley:

1,002 citations issued for violation of California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 23123(a) and section 23124(b) – Cell Phone use.

• 59 citations issued for Vehicle Code section 23123.5(a) - Texting or Reading electronic device while driving. 

                          

• 14 citations for ‘other’ distracted driving violations; i.e. – weaving, impeding traffic, failure to stop for red lights/stop signs, etc.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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