If teens didn’t need another reason not to text and drive, police across the region will crack down on distracted drivers in April as part of national Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The California Highway Patrol, state Office of Traffic Safety and more than 200 local law enforcement agencies statewide will be out in force, ticketing drivers caught texting, holding cell phones to their heads, or driving while appearing distracted in any way.
The federal government reports that about 3,300 people died nationwide in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2011. Further, 18 percent of all injury car accidents in 2010 were attributed to distracted driving.
Law enforcement officials say that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to have an accident because of distracted driving. For a driver of any age, using a cell phone behind the wheel reduces brain functions needed for safe driving by up to 37 percent.
If that weren’t sobering enough, teens in California have a financial incentive to put down their phones while driving: The fine for a first-time texting or hand-held cell phone violation is $159, and subsequent tickets cost $279.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, about 57,000 people statewide received tickets for distracted driving in April 2012 alone. Almost 450,000 people received tickets statewide in 2012.
Here are some tips from the Office of Transportation Safety to help motorists of all ages prevent distracted 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 school 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.
• No eating or drinking while driving
• No grooming
• No reading
• No watching videos
• If something falls to the floor, pull over before trying to reach it.
• Try not to get too involved with passengers