The Belmont Police Department is joining hundreds of law enforcement agencies throughout the state this month to stress the dangers of distracted driving during California's second annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The enforcement, which begins Sunday, April 1, stresses a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to distracted driving.
A ticket for violating either the hands free or no texting law costs a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets cost as much as $279.
During last year's campaign in April, Belmont police issued 99 citations for distracted driving. One of those cited even about his experience receiving the ticket, and explained what he learned from the experience.
Overall last year, Belmont police issued 500 citations for distracted driving.
While increased enforcement will be the focus during the entire month, two "maximum enforcement" days have been designated for April 3 and April 18, where Traffic Officers will be deployed for the specific task of targeting illegal cell phone and texting violations in Belmont.
“Our officers take distracted driving very seriously,” said Belmont Police Chief Don Mattei. “If you haven’t heeded all the safety messaging to put down your phone and just drive, be forewarned! Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159 or worse, a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it,” Mattei added.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
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. When over one third of your brain’s functioning that should be on your driving moves over to cell phone talking, you can become a cell phone “zombie.”
There are simple measures drivers can take 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.
“Changing the dangerous, illegal habit of using hand-held cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” California Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher J. Murphy said in a statement.
“But recent studies show that California’s cell and texting laws have made a big difference – cutting deaths by nearly half. But half is not enough,” Murphy said.