The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified April as the nation’s first Distracted Driver Awareness Month.
The Los Rios Police Department worked with the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcements, according to American River College’s police captain Chris Day, to honor the national zero-tolerance policy for distracted drivers on April 5 and 18.
“On April 5 we issued one citation, and on April 18 we issued four citations,” said Day, for texting and hand-held cell phone use violations while driving. “We are a large campus (with) 35,000 students running around. We try to spend the majority of time working on the main part of the campus, keeping the parking lots monitored.”
Tickets come with the fee of $159, but additional monetary charges could be applied, increasing the cost of the citation up to $279.
According to Day, an officer could issue a citation to a distracted driver at any time.
“A lot of times we can get away with giving warnings,” said Day, “But we need to give citations out to people who are close to the stop sign, or talking on a phone and not paying attention. It may create some type of harm for students and staff out here and then we can give a citation if needed. We don’t need a zero-tolerance to do that.”
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, phoning and driving increases the risk of crashes four-fold, with hands-free and hand-held devices equally as dangerous. Texting increases this risk eight to 16 times.
California has strict laws for this issue and the current prohibitions (according to http://handsfreeinfo.com/california-cell-phone-laws-legislation) are:
• Adult drivers (18 and older) are banned from using cell phones unless they employ hands-free devices.
• Drivers may not use wireless devices “to write, send, or read a text-based communication” — as in text messaging.
• Minors are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free accessories.
• School bus operators and transit bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving.