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Distracted Driving Under Attack in California

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anticellMonday kicked off “Distracted Driving Month” in California. The authorities in the The Golden State will be cracking down on distracted drivers, particularly the ones texting or talking on cell phones.

There has been a ban on drivers using handheld devices in CA since July 2008; texting and driving became illegal in January 2009. The Mercury News reports 353,642 tickets issued since the ’08 ruling and another 5,957 cited for texting since the ’09 decision.

Joshua Melvin, staff writer for The Mercury News whose numbers I just referenced — has some more details to share:

California Highway Patrol officers and more than 225 local police agencies across California will be increasing patrols, targeting drivers using cellphones and ticketing all those caught in the act, said CHP Sgt. Trent Cross. The month long campaign starts Monday and is part of the state’s first Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

While traffic deaths and injuries nationwide are at their lowest level in six decades, safety officials say they could be much lower if drivers stayed off phones, stopped texting and just paid attention to their driving.

‘We’re trying to really send home the message,’ Cross said. ‘If you are stopped for the violation you are going to receive a ticket.’

It’s hardly surprising that companies making driving safety technology are publicly applauding the effort along with those who are concerned about distracted driving. It is good for their business, as well as making the roads safer for everyone.

Web Safety, Inc., whose car safety products I wrote about earlier this year, included startling numbers in their recent press release about the California crack down:

According to several studies, texting while driving can be 2-4 times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. In fact, twice as many teens are injured while texting and driving than while drinking and driving. Seventy three percent of driving aged teenagers admit to having texted while behind the wheel. The National Safety Council estimates that 200,000 crashes are caused by texting drivers each year.

Despite numbers like these, there are still 20 states in the U.S. that do not have any laws on the books covering similar offenses.

California’s month-long siege is only one of many strategies to reduce the risk of distracted driving on American roads. Awareness campaigns, laws and technology seem to be the three main paths taken by those trying to make a difference.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at some technological remedies, and whether they can help with this growing problem, or whether they actually provide additional distractions.

Image by p. gordon, used under its Creative Commons license.

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