Distracted driving causes accidents and police aren’t going to take it anymore. California’s statewide cell phone crackdown starts April 1; first-time tickets for talking or texting while driving will cost $159 and second offenses will jump up to $279.
• Distracted Driving Awareness Month starts April 1.
• Law enforcement agencies throughout California — and across the nation — will adopt a zero tolerance policy toward texting or talking on cell phones (other than hands-free) while driving.
• Police say texting or talking on the phone while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.Talking or texting while driving is not a right. It’s not a privilege. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
The National Transportation Safety Board says people who refuse to hang up and drive are responsible for almost a half-million traffic-related injuries every year, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News. In 2009 (latest figures), distracted driving led to 5,500 deaths and another 448,000 injuries in motor vehicle accidents on U.S. roadways.
Small fines and slaps on the wrist aren’t doing enough to stop the problem. Starting Friday, law enforcement agencies all over the country are coordinating cell phone crackdowns for Distracted Driving Awareness Month. California Highway Patrol divisions across the state are working with more than 225 local police to hone in on distracted drivers.
Los Angeles Police Department traffic Lt. Ron Katono said that texting while driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving, according to an LA Weekly article. He said drivers who use their phones behind the wheel are four times more likely to see serious injury in a crash — and the LAPD doesn’t take that lightly.
“We take the issue of distracted driving very, very seriously,” Katona said. “The ongoing, irresponsible practice of drivers using their cell phones and texting has to stop. The practice is such a serious concern that the LAPD embraces the zero tolerance strategy. … Is a text message or cell phone call really worth risking injury or death?”
California Office of Traffic Safety director Christopher Murphy told the Long Beach Press-Telegram he knows it’s not easy for many drivers to break the habit of talking or texting while driving.
“We recognize that convincing drivers to refrain from using cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” Murphy said. “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.”
Drivers under the age of 20 are the worst offenders. They have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But Murphy believes California drivers will eventually get into the hands-free habit, just like they got used to wearing seat belts. More than 96 percent of drivers in the state now buckle up, a practice which has saved thousands of lives, Murphy said.
It boils down to four simple words: Hang up and drive.
The trial attorneys at Blackman Legal Group, a California-based law firm founded by renowned trial attorney Clifford Blackman, have been representing motor vehicle accident victims for 35 years. The nationwide toll-free number to call for a free consultation is 1–866-692-8126.