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Police to Crack Down on Distracted Drivers

In April police will be enforcing a zero tolerance policy for anyone caught texting or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Newport Beach police won't be cutting any slack for drivers talking or texting on hand-held cell phones during the month of April.

As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, police will be enforcing a zero tolerance policy to anyone found texting or talking on hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. According to police, the minimum ticket cost is $159, with subsequent tickets costing at least $279.

“Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance," Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson said in a released statement. "Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159, or worse, injuring or killing someone?”

According to police officials, drivers who use hand-held cell phones are four times more likely to get into serious crashes. And drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

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. In addition, studies prove there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in “inattention blindness” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.

More than 225 local agencies across the state will conduct zero tolerance enforcements. Here are some tips from law enforcement on what drivers can do to help curb the use of mobile devices while driving:

  • Turn off your phone or put it out of reach before starting the car. 
  • Alert callers that you are unable to take calls when driving by changing your voice mail message. 
  • Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving, such as during their commute to and from work or school. This applies particularly to 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 difficult and you just can't turn off your phone, consider using one of the available mobile phone apps that holds calls and incoming texts. 
  • Use common sense when you’re behind the wheel and focus on driving.

Do you text and drive? How effective do you think the month-long campaign will be? Is a $159 fine enough to deter drivers? Tell us in the comments.

KLSchmidt March 31, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Cell phones play a big part in our lives, so it's not a bad thing to crack down. What Newport PD should crack down on is UPS and Fed Ex who illegally park in red zones or just about anyplace they want. I suppose cell phone crack down won't apply UPS or FedX.
Matt March 31, 2012 at 11:01 PM
What the Newport Beach Police should crack down on is enforcement of the crosswalks on the peninsula. I have hammered them on Twitter to no end on this. It's not just the tourists, but locals and even marked cruisers don't stop for pedestrians in crosswalks in uncontrolled intersections.

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