Police departments across state cracking down on drivers who talk on cell phones or text while driving

As part of California’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, law enforcement in the state will be holding “zero tolerance” days for cell phone use and texting. A ticket for violating either the hands-free or no-texting law costs a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets cost $279.
According to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), distracted driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts everyone on the road at risk, joining speeding and alcohol as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. As a result, law enforcement across the state, including the LBPD, is increasingly cracking down on cell phone use and texting. Throughout the month, LBPD will join over 225 local agencies plus 103 CHP Area Commands conducting zero-tolerance enforcements.
“Distracted driving can have significant repercussions,” said LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell. “People must understand that the consequences of distracted driving can be serious or even sometimes fatal.”
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. 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.
“We recognize that convincing drivers to refrain from using cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” said Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher J. Murphy. “It’s very difficult to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call. That’s why we are stepping up enforcement and public-awareness efforts. Convincing California drivers to wear seat belts 20 years ago wasn’t easy either, but in 2010 more than 96 percent buckled up and thousands of lives were saved.”
Studies show 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 driver’s focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.
There are simple measures drivers can take to minimize distractions in the vehicle:
• Turn your phone off or put it out of reach before starting the car.
• Alert callers that you are unable to take calls when driving by changing your voice message.
• Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving. If you do need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over to a safe place to do so.
“We just want drivers to use some common sense when they’re behind the wheel and focus on driving,” Murphy said. “Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive everyday. Were any really worth a $159 ticket– or worse, a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it.”

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