Distracted drivers target of April crackdown


More than 200 local law enforcement agencies and 103 California Highway Patrol offices will be participating in the second annual National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

CHP says drivers caught texting or using their cellphone while driving face a first-time citation of a minimum of $159, with a second violation at least $279.

But the new penalties have hardly been a deterrent. Last year, about 475,000 drivers statewide were ticketed for the offense.

The hands-free law went into effect in 2008. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that talking on a cellphone can reduce more than 35 percent of the brain activity needed for driving.

Police say drivers under the age of 20 make up the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal accidents. Studies show texting while driving can delay a driver's reaction time just as much as driving under the influence.

When the campaign kicked off in April 2011, more than 52,000 citations were issued by law enforcement statewide, four times the monthly average, according to the CHP.

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