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Police Crack Down on Drivers Using Phones


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By Lookout Staff

April 3, 2024 -- Santa Monica police this month will be "actively looking" for motorists talking on their phones while driving, Police Department officials announced this week.

The effort is part of a Distracted Driving Awareness Month safety campaign to crack down on drivers who violate California's hands-free cell phone law.

The law makes it illegal for drivers "to hold a phone or electronic communications device while operating a vehicle, even when stopped at a red light," police officials said.

Violators can be fined, and those who commit a second violation "within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record," officials said.

"In today's fast-paced life, it is common to lose focus while driving," SMPD officials said in a statement Monday. "Even a moment of inattention or a quick glance at the phone can lead to serious consequences."

At least 140 people were killed in distracted driving traffic crashes in California in 2021, the last year for which data are available.

"The numbers are likely underreported because law enforcement officers may not always be able to tell that distraction was a factor in a crash," police officials said.

A Statewide Public Opinion Survey conducted in 2023 found that about three in four respondents said that "distracted driving because of texting was their biggest safety concern."

Police officials advise motorists to silence their phones and place them out of reach in the glove box, trunk or back seat before starting their vehicle.

"If you have an important phone call, text or email, or are in a situation with other distractions, such as looking up directions, pull over to a safe parking spot to complete the task without putting yourself and others at risk," officials said.

Other distractions include "eating, grooming, reaching for something that fell on the floor, putting on or taking off clothing, talking with passengers, or children in the back seat."

Funding for distracted driving enforcement is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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