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Santa Monica Police Crack Down on Distracted Drivers

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jorge Casuso

April 11, 2013 -- In 2011, drivers involved in 1.3 million crashes nationwide were using cell phones, accounting for 23 percent of the accidents.

More than one third of drivers have sent or received text messages while driving, and 18 percent said they do so regularly.

During April, May and June, the Santa Monica Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Section will be cracking down on those dangerous behaviors.

“It is against the law to text on your phone at any time while driving and to drive while talking on your phone without a handsfree device,” said Lt. Jay Trisler. 

The practice continues to be common in California, despite a state law passed in 2008 banning the use of hand-held cell phones, and another in 2009 banning texting while driving.

In fact, a study conducted in 2010 found that laws banning the use of hand-held devices while driving failed to reduce the rate off accidents in New York, Connecticut and California, as well as the District of Columbia.

The study by the Highway Loss Data Institute compared insurance claims in the four jurisdictions banning cell phones with areas that had no such bans.

Texting or using cell phones is dangerous because 5 seconds is the minimal amount of time a driver’s attention is taken away from the road, according to studies. At 55 miles per hour, that’s the length of a football field.

A large percentage of people said they continue to engage in distracted driving, although they know it is dangerous, according to a HealthDay poll of nearly 3,000 adults conducted in 2011.

California law bans holding a cell phone, even if the speakerphone is on. It also bans the use of cell phones by juveniles while driving with or without an earpiece, and whether or not the speakerphone is on.
It is also illegal to “write, send, or read a text-based communication” while driving. However, scrolling for a name or phone number in a cell phone or entering a phone number does not constitute texting.
The Santa Monica Police Department suggests that motorists “turn off (the) cell phone and/or put it out of reach while driving,” include in an outgoing message that the phone will not be answered while driving and adjust controls and set a song playlist before setting out on the road.

Police also ask people not to call or text anyone at a time when they may be driving.

“Stay alert and keep your mind on the task of driving,” Trisler said. “Often after a long day at work or a not so restful night’s sleep, people’s minds can wander when behind the wheel.

“If you find yourself daydreaming,” Trisler added, “clear your head and focus on the road.” 

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