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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 11:08 am | Fair 59º


Santa Barbara Police Taking Vigilant Stance Against Distracted Driving in April

The Santa Barbara Police Department is joining a nationwide campaign against distracted driving with informational outreach and a statewide zero-tolerance policy in effect April 20.

The campaign for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month aims to change driver behavior and prevent fatal accidents caused by distracted driving.

“People have to understand that a 3,000-pound vehicle is a very dangerous thing to be in control of if you’re not fully focused on what you’re doing while driving that vehicle,” said Sgt. Mike Brown of the SBPD’s Traffic Unit.

SBPD joins the California Highway Patrol, sheriff’s departments, the Office of Traffic Safety, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the campaign.

“What we want to let people know is that any type of distraction is dangerous,” Brown said.

“We want you to have 100-percent focus on the task at hand, and that is driving your vehicle while you’re on the road.”

Distractions, he said, could be actions as mundane as changing the volume on the radio or interacting with a navigation system. Though many forms of distraction are by no means illegal, they still leave drivers more susceptible to causing a collision.

What law enforcement will be especially vigilant about on April 20 will be cellphone use. Regardless of what a phone is being used for, Brown said, if it’s in a driver’s hand while they’re operating their vehicle, they will be pulled over.

According to Brown, the three years between January 2013 and January 2016 saw six SBPD-documented cases of drivers texting or talking on the phone at the time of a collision — cases in which the driver admitted to his or her phone use.

In that same time period, Brown said, his department issued 2,877 cellphone citations and 500 texting citations.

“That just shows how prevalent of an issue that is in our community,” he said.

Concrete data on local collisions that could be attributed to distracted drivers, however, is difficult to track, Brown said. A witness needs to confirm that a driver was distracted, and drivers don’t like to admit that they were distracted by their phones, he said.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,179 people died in distracted-driving collisions around the country in 2014, and another 431,000 were injured in collisions involving a distracted driver.

Throughout the month, the NHTSA and Office of Traffic Safety are putting on a television campaign, social media campaigns, and public service announcements aimed at persuading people to eliminate distractions.

According to Brown, SBPD data for the two zero-tolerance days, April 7 and 20, won’t be put together until the end of the month.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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