The California Highway Patrol and law enforcement across California are preparing to crack down on distracted drivers in April.
As part of a statewide “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” campaign, more than 225 local agencies plus the CHP have announced a “no warnings” policy and will be actively ticketing drivers caught texting or talking with hand-held cell phones throughout April.
A ticket for violating either the hands free or no texting law costs a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets cost $279, according the California Highway Patrol.
In recent years, hundreds have been killed and thousands seriously injured in California as a result of collisions that involved at least one driver who was distracted, according the California Highway Patrol. Nationally, an estimated 3,331 people died in 2011.
“We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn't stop some people from continuing to do it,” Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to the California Highway Patrol. 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.
In 2012, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reported nearly 450,000 hand-held cell phone and texting convictions, with more than 57,000 tickets issued in April alone.
“This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving,” Diaz said. “We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families and others on the road.”
Law enforcement offered some simple tips drivers can take to minimize distractions while driving:
- Turn off your phone and/or put it out of reach while driving
- Include in your outgoing message that you can't answer while you are driving
- Don't call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving
- Adjust controls and set your song playlist before you set out on the road
- Stay alert and keep your mind on the task of driving – often after a long day at work or a not-so-restful night's sleep, people's minds can wander when behind the wheel. If you find yourself daydreaming, clear your head and focus on the road
-The California Highway Patrol and City News Service contributed to this report