City cracks down on distracted drivers

A two-day campaign against cell-phone use by motorists nets big results.

April 07, 2011|By Gretchen Meier,

After two days of heavy enforcement this week, 39 Burbank drivers went home with $159 citations as part of a statewide crackdown on driving while distracted.

The Burbank Police Department joined law enforcement agencies throughout the state as part of the state’s inaugural Distracted Driving Awareness Month to conduct zero-tolerance enforcement efforts on Monday and Tuesday. The turnout was dedicated to enforcing the law banning use of handheld cell phones while behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified texting and cell phone use while driving as the fastest growing and most visible distraction in collisions.


“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse said in a statement. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”

Last year, Burbank Police issued 696 tickets to distracted drivers, or an average of less than two tickets each day. The citations issued earlier this week to 25 cell phone users, 12 texting drivers and two other who were engaging in other distractions, such as grooming, eating or adjusting electronics, show the prevalence of the problem, said Sgt. Robert Quesada.

The first citation for using a hand-held cell phone costs violators $159. Additional tickets for violating the cell phone law cost $279.

California Office of Traffic Safety officials said they hope the inaugural campaign against distracted driving will gain momentum, especially among young drivers who are more likely to become involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes.

Other campaigns, including one aimed at increasing seatbelt use among drivers and passengers, have been effective in gaining compliance, said Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

More than 275 law enforcement agencies are participating in the state campaign, which will focus on enforcement and public education, he said.

“They see what the problem is,” Cochran said.

Enforcement will continue throughout April with two additional special enforcement days later this month.

--Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

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