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Police crack down on distracted driving
WRITTEN BY :   Eric Pierce

Downey police officers will be actively ticketing drivers Wednesday caught texting or using their hand-held phones while behind the wheel.

The zero tolerance enforcement is part the statewide “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.’

Drivers texting or using their phones face a minimum fine of $159 for a first offense. The fine increases to at least $279 for a second ticket.

“We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn’t stop some people from continuing to do it,” said Downey Police Chief Carl Charles. “This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving.

“We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road.”

Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, authorities said. Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

In addition, studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.

Studies also show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in “inattention blindness” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.

When over one third of your brain’s functioning that should be on your driving moves over to cell phone talking, you can become a cell phone “zombie,” authorities said.

To avoid a distracted driving ticket or crash, the Downey Police Department offers drivers the following tips:

*Turn off your phone and/or put it out of reach while driving

*Include in your outgoing message that you can’t answer while you are driving

*Don’t call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013, WEB ONLY
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