How often do you see drivers texting or talking with hand-held cell phones and wish they would be stopped and cited? As part of California’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement across the state will hold 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.
University Police officers will join in enforcement efforts on campus during the campaign kickoff on April 4 & 5. Throughout the month, more than 225 local police agencies and 103 CHP Area Commands will conduct zero tolerance enforcements.
“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.”
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 California is increasingly cracking down on cell phone use and texting.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Younger, inexperienced drivers younger than 20 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.
While hands-free cell phones are allowed, 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 drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road. In addition to talking and texting, distracted driving may also include eating, drinking, using a GPS, applying makeup or getting too involved with passengers – any activity that diverts drivers’ attention away from driving.
Drivers can take a few steps to minimize distractions:
- 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 voicemail message.
- Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving, such as during the commute to and from work or school, especially parents calling teen drivers.
- If you do need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over to a safe place to do so.
- If going cold turkey is too much of a stretch and you just can’t turn your phone off, consider using one of the available mobile phone apps that holds calls and incoming texts.