Police in California cracking down on drivers' cellphone use

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distracted driving

SALINAS, Calif. - April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and law enforcement agencies around the state are conducting "high visibility enforcement actions."

The California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Traffic Safety has partnered with more than 200 local law enforcement agencies in their efforts.  Four dates -yesterday, April 3; April 8, April 17 and April 22 have been selected for special statewide enforcement, but individual agencies will be looking for those texting and using hand-held cellphones while driving throughout the month. 

"Catastrophic crashes can happen in a split second," said Brian Kelly, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. "No text or phone call is worth that risk."

"It's Not Worth It!" is the theme of this year's enforcement as agencies emphasize the idea that a phone call or text message isn't worth a hefty fine or possible collision.

Central Coast News reporter Cassandra Arsenault got a chance to experience first-hand just how dangerous distracted driving can be, with help from the Monterey County CHP office. See how she did in the video above.

Nationally, an estimated 3,328 people died and another 421,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver in 2012. Any activity that diverts the driver's attention can cause distractions, but cellphone use has proven to be particularly concerning.

The ticket cost for a first time texting or hand-held cell phone violation is about $162, with subsequent tickets costing about $282.

CHP and the Office of Traffic Safety offer the following tips for drivers:

  • Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode, then put it out of reach while driving
  • Record an outgoing message on your phone that tells callers you're driving and will get back to them when you're off the road
  • Adjust controls and set your song playlist before you set out on the road
  • If it's urgent, pull over in a safe place to place a call
  • Focus on driving, and avoid eating, drinking, reading, grooming, smoking, and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.

A San Francisco resident has grown so tired of seeing drivers texting while driving that he's even started taking photos of the offenders and posting them online on his blog, Twitspotting.

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