The Monterey Park Police Department, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and over 200 law enforcement agencies will target drivers who cannot put down their cell phones while behind the wheel this month across the state as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Monterey Park police say they will be citing drivers found texting or using their phones without a hands-free device, as part of the California Office of Traffic Safety’s “It’s Not Worth It!” campaign. Being on the phone or texting is not worth getting a ticket or into an accident, they are reminding drivers.
Monterery Park Police Department’s Traffic Clerk Diane Giannone told EGP that officers will not be letting drivers go with just a simple warning, which often times does not prevent future violations.
“With the sting of the citation it seems to stick,” said Giannone.
The minimum cost of a distracted driver ticket is $159, with subsequent tickets going up to $279 or more depending on the driver’s record.
Officers will also be focused on citing drivers under 18 who legally cannot even drive while on a hands-free mobile device.
According to facts gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers who use hand-held cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into an accident. The use of a cell phone while driving also delays the driver’s reaction as much as an intoxicated driver.
Its difficult sometimes for officers to distinguish drivers who are texting from those that are drunk drivers because their actions can sometimes mimic each other, said Giannone.
“We have seen an increase in accidents,” Giannone said. “Cell phones and texting are what seems to be affecting that.”
To avoid a distracted driver ticket, the Monterey Park Police Department suggests the following to drivers:
—Turn of cell phones and/or put them out of reach while driving;
—Include an outgoing message that you cannot answer while driving;
—Don’t make calls or send text messages when you think you will be driving.
The city’s police department, along with the other participating agencies statewide will turn in their statistics to the campaign for further analysis. Although Giannone does not believe that Monterey Park’s statistics will be higher than neighboring cities.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles there were nearly 450,000 cell phone-related accidents and citations last year. During the month-long campaign last year, over 57,000 distracted driver tickets were written statewide.
“Enforcing is just one part of this campaign,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow in a press release for the campaign. “The larger goal is educating motorist about the dangers of distracted driving and encouraging them to change their behavior behind the wheel.”