The Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) says it’s putting the brakes on distracted drivers throughout April in conjunction with distracted driver’s awareness month.
“When you are driving, give the phone a rest,” Sgt. Dan Miles said in a statement. “A driver’s number one focus should be on the road. Anything that distracts you from the task of driving, especially a phone, puts yourself and others at risk.”
The department will have extra officers on patrol throughout April and will be on the lookout for drivers violating California’s hands-free cellphone law. The campaign is being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Under the current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free.
Those needing to make a call or send a text should first pull over in a safe location, Miles said.
Silencing phones and putting them out of reach in places like the glove box or trunk are also good strategies for avoiding the consequences of being distracted.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
According to the Cypress Police Department, drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to be involved in crashes.
Studies have shown that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time as severely as having a legally drunk blood alcohol level.
According to a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute analysis, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, enough time to travel the length of a football field blindfolded.
Cypress police also said the same risks exist for both hands-on and hands-free devices, and that drivers are often fooled into thinking they’re safer by using an earbud or Bluetooth connection.
Meantime, research from the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that drivers who have been in at least one crash in the past two years are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding or texting.
“The frequency of drivers in the United States engaging in improper behavior is too high. While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel—like texting, are dangerous, some do them anyway,” David Yang, executive director of the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a press release. “We need to be aware of the serious consequences of engaging in these types of dangerous driving behavior and change course.”