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County Agencies Stepping Up Enforcement of Hands-Free Cell Phone Laws

Officers and deputies join forces this week to promote 'zero tolerance' campaign against distracted drivers

In an effort to reduce collisions and promote traffic safety, law enforcement agencies from throughout Santa Barbara County are joining forces this Wednesday and Thursday to focus their enforcement efforts on distracted drivers.

California Highway Patrol officers from the Santa Barbara, Buellton and Santa Maria offices as well as deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and officers from the Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Guadalupe and UCSB police departments will be aggressively seeking out drivers violating the “hands free” cell phone laws which have been in effect since 2008.

Similar “zero tolerance” enforcement campaigns have taken place across the state in the past few months.

“Impaired driving is a dangerous and irresponsible behavior that results in hundreds of victims killed and thousands of others injured in California every year,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said.

According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, in 2008 more than 30,000 drivers in California were involved in traffic collisions where inattention played a role. More than 1,000 of those drivers identified a cell phone as the inattention. Cell phones are the number one identifiable inattention stated on collision reports.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute define distracted driving as “anything that diverts the driver’s attention away from the primary tasks of navigating a vehicle and responding to critical events.”

Although the NHTSA has indicated that cell phones are the most familiar form of distraction, applying makeup, using a Global Positioning Satellite, eating, drinking, changing CDs, adjusting the radio and reading are among other activities that can distract a driver. In Santa Barbara County, the fine for first-time violators is $156.

The diverse characteristics of Santa Barbara County roadways normally present a challenge for even the most attentive drivers traversing through city traffic, the construction and traffic-congested portions of Highway 101, or on the many rural and mountainous state routes and county roads. These conditions provide little room for error, and only worsen during adverse weather conditions.

The message from county law enforcement agencies is simple: No phone call or text message is worth a human life.

— Jeremy Wayland is a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara Area.


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