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Highway Patrol gives firsthand look at citing distracted drivers

From the inside of a Highway Patrol car, NewsChannel 3 is given a firsthand look at the efforts to stop distracted drivers.

Officer Jason Butler focused his eyes on drivers on all sides of his vehicle while gliding through freeway traffic. He said cars that fail to stay in their lanes are among the first vehicles he checks out.

Often drivers on cellphones, without hands-free devices, are wrapped up in their calls and can be caught and cited.

Near La Colina Junior High on Cathedral Oaks Road, one driver on his phone was tailed by Butler with red lights flashing for over a quarter of a mile before stopping.

The driver finally stopped with the sound of a siren.

“Yea, everyone is well aware that driving with their cellphones up to their ear, talking and texting is completely illegal,” said Butler.

This is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, and law enforcement agencies throughout the state are cracking down on dangerous drivers.

One driver pulled up next to the officer and was sending a text message with her phone in front of the steering wheel. After being pulled over, she admitted it was only a brief text, but knew it was a violation.

Many drivers do not realize how far they can travel while distracted by a phone call, reaching for some food, or putting on makeup instead of looking at the road.

“At 60 miles per hour, a second and a half later you’ve traveled almost 180 feet,” said Butler. “And that’s before you start braking.”

This month as part of the enforcement efforts, overhead sign boards are reminding drivers of the fines for distracted driving.

The cost of the first ticket for this offense is $159.

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