Drop the Phone! Police Stress Dangers of Distracted Driving

A first-time ticket costs a minimum of $159.

Police are cracking down on drivers who use their cell phones while behind the wheel this month as part of a statewide campaign to stress the dangers of distracted driving.

A first-time ticket for texting and driving, or talking on a phone while driving without a hands free device, costs a minimum of $159. Subsequent tickets are $279 -- and police are asking residents: is it worth it?

The second annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which began Sunday, April 1, promotes zero tolerance enforcement efforts for illegal cell phone use and texting violations, police said.

“Our officers have seen the grave results of distracted driving,” San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement.

“If you haven’t heeded all the safety messaging to put down your phone and just drive, be forewarned! … and remember, this campaign isn’t about avoiding a costly ticket; it’s about keeping yourself and the ones you care about alive,” she said.

Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to police.

In addition, younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Studies also 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.

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. 

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