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Distracted drivers are the focus of a special CHP enforcement in April

GOLETA, Calif. - Traffic enforcement officers are already watching for distracted drivers to stop them before a crash takes place, but in April there will be special enforcement.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Officers will be actively looking for drivers throughout the month who are in violation of the state’s hands-free cell phone law.

There are visual, mental and manual distractions that can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle or crash.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is joining Cottage Hospital for a virtual session on distracted driving, the consequences, and advice on being a better driver. It takes place this Thursday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. To register go to:

CHP officer Mike Fabila says the freeway drive on the South Coast has many challenges, in part, because of all the construction underway from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara. "People are slowing down a lot more abruptly and you are not getting that reaction time." He says taking your eyes off the wheel for even a few seconds can be enough of a distraction to affect braking. "That small glance, going 65 miles an hour  is going to take you a quarter of a mile," he says. Fabila also says most cars are not going 65 miles an hour on the freeway and instead are traveling much faster.

He says the CHP has heard all the excuses drivers can come up with about using phones without a hands free device and drivers should expect a ticket, not a warning.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department is contracted as the Goleta Police Department, and Sgt. Noel Rivas says, “Holding your phone and using it while driving is not only dangerous, but also illegal. For the safety of your family and others on the road, put the phone away and focus on driving.” 

According to the 2021 California Statewide Public Opinion Survey, nearly three out of every four drivers surveyed said that distracted driving because of texting was their biggest safety concern. In 2019, the CHP issued nearly 20,000 citations during the month of April to drivers for hands-free cell phone law violations.

Under current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or electronic communications device while operating a vehicle. This includes talking, texting, using an app, or while stopped at a red light. Using a handheld cell phone while driving is punishable by fine. Violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record.

It's recommended if you have an important phone call, text, email, or need to program directions, pull over to a safe parking spot. Before starting the car, either silence your phone or put it somewhere you can’t reach.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Distractions come in several ways, visual, manual and mental. Besides phones, someone could be putting on make up, eating, or having their dog in their lap.

One driver Robert Black said, he had a couple of scares so, "I said you known what I gotta put this thing down so I started voice typing."

Another driver uses her window mount and her phone attaches with a magnet.

Article Topic Follows: Safety

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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