Police in El Cerrito issued more than 600 citations in April to motorists for distracted driving violations to educate drivers on the dangers of using handheld phones behind the wheel, police said. Officers were alerted to look for distracted drivers from April 1 to April 30 as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month that included more than 200 local police agencies and the California Highway Patrol, according to police.
During the crackdown, El Cerrito police wrote 456 citations to people for talking or texting on their cell phones or other handheld devices while driving and an additional 162 for other violations related to distracted driving. The fines for a first citation for distracted driving is $161 and tickets to repeat offenders cost at least $281, according to El Cerrito police Sgt. Shawn Maples said. Maples said the department takes the problem seriously, as motorists with handheld devices are four times more likely to get into an injury accident and it can delay reaction time as severely as if the driver were legally drunk.
Sending or receiving a text takes drivers’ eyes an average of 4.6 seconds off the road and just three seconds of the freeway travel is about 100 yards, the size of a football field, Maples said. Also, according to research, there is little difference in the risk of an accident between hands-free and handheld phone conversations while driving because the person’s brain is not focused clearly, what is known as “attention blindness,” Maples said. When someone is talking on the phone while driving, they lose about one third of their brain’s functioning that should be devoted to the road ahead of them, he said.
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