April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Newport Beach Police Department sent out a message on Wednesday that they, along with law enforcement agencies statewide, will have additional officers on patrol specifically looking for drivers violating California’s hands-free cell phone law.
Distracted driving is dangerous, especially when it involves a cell phone. According to preliminary data from the California Highway Patrol, 66 people were killed and more than 6,500 injured in 2017 from distracted driving-related crashes.
“Cell phones remain one of the top distractions for drivers,” said NBPD Lieutenant Joe Cartwright in a prepared statement. “Like any bad habit, it can be hard to break, but this habit can have life-altering consequences.”
A 2018 observational survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety on driver cell phone use found about 4.5 percent of drivers are still using their cell phone illegally, a nearly 27 percent increase from 2016.
“That text or phone call will never be worth losing a life over,” Cartwright noted. “That is why curbing distracted driving is high on our priority list.”
Under the most recent cell phone law that went into effect in 2017, drivers are prohibited from having a phone in their hand for any reason and can only use their phone in a hands-free manner. The phones must be mounted on the dashboard, windshield or center console, and can only be touched once with the swipe or tap of a finger to activate or deactivate a function. First-time offenders face a $162 fine.
For more information, visit nbpd.org.