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Campaign aims to stop texting while driving

June 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles officials and AT&T have joined forces to get Angelenos to stop texting while driving.It's been a year-and-a-half since the state of California banned texting and driving. But it's still a common sight to see people glued to their cell phones when behind the wheel, especially young drivers.

"The younger generation is addicted to new technology," said Los Angeles resident, Eric Hudson.

"I think if you have an accident while texting and driving then it should automatically be your fault," said Los Angeles resident, Jim Edwards.

LAPD, L.A. Fire and LAUSD announced Monday a new partnership with AT&T that is aimed at highlighting the dangers that come with texting and driving.

The goal is to educate all drivers, with an emphasis on teenagers. Their message is clear: texting isn't worth your life.

"It is the most dangerous thing you can do while doing what is already the most dangerous thing you can do which is drive a car," said LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck. "You are much more likely, by some estimates, 23 times more likely to be in a traffic accident while you are texting."

Despite the warnings, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says the law is being ignored by a number of drivers. He hopes increased public awareness will help drivers think twice.

"The nonprofit organization National Safety Council blames 28 percent of annual traffic accidents on motorists talking or texting while driving," said Villaraigosa.

The risky activity is done more frequently by teenagers, according to Villaraigosa. He noted the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project showed that 26 percent of American teens of driving age say they text while driving, and 48 percent of children ages 12-17 say they have been a passenger in a car while the driver was texting while driving.

"That's not only frightening, it's unacceptable," Villaraigosa said. He added that seeing people on the road who are texting while driving is a "pet peeve" of his.

Chief Beck delivered the same message.

"Make no mistake about it, texting while driving -- either sending a text or receiving a text and reading it -- is against the law, and you will be cited," he said, adding the fine could range from $40 to about $100.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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