April is designated national Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the federal Department of Transportation and other agencies, and Sierra Madre police will be cracking down.
Police in Sierra Madre "will be actively ticketing those texting or operating hand-held cell phones for the month of April," Officer Kenneth Berry said in a statement. "Drivers who break the law and place themselves and others in danger will be cited with no warnings."
The current minimum ticket for distracted driving is $159 in Southern California, and the next ticket after that jumps to $279, Berry said.
Nationwide in April 2012, law enforcement officers wrote 57,000 tickets for texting and hand-held cell phone use, Berry said. In 2011, distracted driving contributed to more than 3,300 deaths in the U.S., Berry said.
"We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn't stop some people from continuing to do it," Sierra Madre police Chief Larry Giannone said in a statement. "This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road."
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes and injure themselves, Berry said. Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes, Berry said.
To avoid a distracted driving ticket or crash, Sierra Madre police offered the following tips:
- Turn off your cell phone and/or put it out of reach while driving.
- Include in your outgoing message that you can’t answer while you are driving.
- Don't call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving.
To learn more about the national Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign, visit www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving.