April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Santa Barbara police officers cracked down on drivers who texted or spoke on their cell phones behind the wheel by enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy last weekend. The two-day campaign resulted in 116 citations.
Punitive repercussions for the offense result in a minimum $159 ticket with subsequent fines setting drivers back at least $279. Drivers who operate handheld cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves and others, said officials. Inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” said Sergeant Mike McGrew in a written statement. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”
While it has been California state law since 2010, officers encourage drivers to invest in a hands-free or Bluetooth headset while on the road to protect their safety as well as that of others.
Additionally, California is currently conducting the nation’s first statewide observational distracted driving survey this spring and will post the results later this month at www.ots.ca.gov.