If you’re a habitual car texter, April might be the month to finally kick the habit. If you’re caught texting or operating hand-held cell phones this month, expect to fork out a minimum of $159 for a ticket. Subsequent tickets will cost $279.
The Redwood City Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and other law enforcement agencies are beginning their “Zero Tolerance” Distracted Driving Enforcement Operation. Over 225 local agencies and 103 CHP area commands will participate in this campaign through the month of April.
“Distracted drivers create an increased accident risk and increased risk to their safety and those around them,” said Interim Police Chief Ed Hernandez. “We take this very seriously and officers will enforce a zero tolerance policy for violators.”
The Millbrae Police Department will be deploying additional traffic officers on April 13 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on April 20 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting deputies on the road to enforce zero tolerance,” said Sheriff Greg Munks. “Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes than drivers who don’t use the devices while driving, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. 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.
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 drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
“It’s very difficult to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call,” said Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher J. Murphy in a statement. “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.”
The Office of Traffic Safety offered tips 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 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.