The California Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol, and more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the state will be conducting a crackdown on those drivers talking, texting or browsing on a cell phone in April for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Special statewide enforcement for all the allied law enforcement agencies is planned for April 8, 17, and 22. Individual agencies will be looking for mobile device offenders in their areas on additional days throughout the month. The increased enforcement aims to persuade drivers to recognize the dangers of distracted driving and reduce the number of people impacted by this perilous behavior. The "It's Not Worth It!" theme emphasizes that a phone call or text isn't worth a hefty fine or a collision. "Catastrophic crashes can happen in a split second," said Brian Kelly, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. "No text or phone call is worth that risk."
Nationally, an estimated 3,328 people died and 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012.
"Distracted driving has become a dangerous epidemic nationwide and we want to do everything we can to stop it here and now," said OTS Acting Director Russia Chavis. "Law enforcement agencies will be out in full force to help remind drivers to put down their cell phones and maintain their focus on the roads. By working together, we can eliminate crashes and the senseless loss of lives of that can result from distracted driving."
According to national traffic safety research, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. Even a three second glance at freeway speeds means a driver has traveled the distance of a football field.
"Any non-driving activity a driver engages in behind the wheel is a potential distraction and increases their risk of being involved in a collision," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "Through education and enforcement, law enforcement is working to change this dangerous and potentially life-threatening behavior."
In 2013, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reported over 426,000 handheld cell phone and texting convictions, with more than 57,000 tickets issued in April alone.
The ticket cost for a first time texting or hand-held cell phone violation is about $162, with subsequent tickets costing about $282. Local agencies participating in the zero-tolerance campaign include the police departments in Turlock, Ceres, Livingston, Oakdale, Modesto, Merced, and Atwater.
To avoid falling victim to distracted driving behaviors, OTS and the CHP are providing drivers with the following tips that can be implemented by any motorist:
• Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode, then put it out of reach while driving.
• Record an outgoing message on your phone that tells callers you're driving and will get back to them when you're off the road.
• Adjust controls and set your song playlist before you set out on the road.
• If it's urgent, pull over in a safe place to place a call.
• Focus on driving, and avoid eating, drinking, reading, grooming, smoking, and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.