Distracted driving puts everyone on the road at risk. It joins speeding and alcohol as leading factors in fatal and serious-injury crashes. As a result, law enforcement across the state, including the Brentwood Police Department, is increasingly cracking down on cell phone use and texting. This month, the Brentwood PD joins hundreds of police and sheriff departments, plus the California Highway Patrol, in operations targeting distracted driving.
“Our officers take distracted driving very seriously,” said Brentwood Police Chief Mark Evenson. “If you haven’t heeded all the safety messaging to put down your phone and just drive, be forewarned. Is that text message or cell phone call worth the costly citation?”
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes involving serious injury. Drivers under 20 comprise the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time as severely as the blood-alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.
“Changing the dangerous, illegal habit of using hand-held cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “But recent studies show that California’s call and texting laws have made a big difference – cutting deaths by nearly half. But half is not enough.”
Studies show that there is no difference in the risk quotient between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations. Both can result in “inattention blindness,” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible due to the driver’s focus on the phone conversation and not on the road.
The following are simple measures you can take to minimize distraction in the vehicle:
• Turn your cell phone off or put it out of reach before starting the car.
• Create a voicemail message alerting callers that you’re unable to take calls when driving.
• Do not call or text anyone who might be driving, such as during the commute to and from work or school.
• If you need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over to a safe place to do so.
• If going cold turkey is too much of a stretch and you just can’t turn your phone off, consider using one of the available mobile phone apps that hold calls and incoming texts.