California agencies warn against distracted driving

Signal File Photo.

Encouraging safe driving anywhere from busy freeways to neighborhood streets, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month keeps drivers aware of the dangers of not keeping their eyes on the road.

California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and Impact Teen Drivers are some of many groups bringing awareness to the need to drive safely.

“Distracted driving is absolutely avoidable, but it continues to be a serious problem among drivers,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement. “Too many lives are lost every year due to distracted driving. We believe that through continued education and enforcement, the number of deaths and injuries can be reduced.”

Distracted driving is closely connected with calling and texting, though it also includes eating, drinking, talking to passengers and fiddling with a stereo or navigation system, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.

Santa Clarita’s Right Way Driving School Instructor Sam Russell said he notices that students of all ages get distracted by their phones while driving, and often sees adults as guiltier of distracted driving than teens.

“To know something and to apply it is two different worlds,” Russell said. “Teenagers are being taught from the beginning not to use their phones and adults think our experience as being a driver allows us to have more freedom.”

During driving lessons, Russell said he has students leave their phones on to teach them not to pick them up.

As of the implementation of Assembly Bill 1785 in January, Californians can no longer hold their cell phones in their hand while driving, but can still swipe or tap phones to activate or deactivate a feature if the phone is mounted. Drivers under 18 years old are completely prohibited from using their phone while driving.

“We encourage everyone to take the ‘It can wait’ pledge to keep your eyes on the road, not your phone, and help keep our roads safe,” AT&T California President Ken McNeely said in a statement. “No text, email or social media post is worth a life.”

A ticket for a first offense of distracted driving is $20, which will be $162 after fees, and a second offense if $50, equating to $285 after fees.

Across the state, 85 people were killed and 11,262 were injured in 2015 because of distracted driving collisions, and 3,477 people were killed and about 391,000 were injured nationwide.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles reported that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that eight people are killed each day in the United States because of distracted driving.

According to the NHTSA, 71 percent of young people admit to texting and driving.

“Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to change attitudes and behaviors about distracted driving,” Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers said in a statement.


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