Fire Weather Watch issued October 1 at 12:28PM PDT expiring October 3 at 7:00PM PDT in effect for: Kern, Tulare
How often do you see drivers texting or talking with handheld cell phones and wish they would be stopped and cited?As part of Californias first Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, law enforcement agencies throughout Kern County will be holding zero-tolerance days for cell phone use and texting.A ticket for violating either the hands-free or no texting law costs a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets cost $279.Distracted driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts everyone on the road at risk, joining speeding and alcohol as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes, police say.As a result, law enforcement across the state, including Arvin, Bakersfield, California City, Maricopa, McFarland, Ridgecrest, Shafter, Taft, Tehachapi and the Kern County Sheriffs Department are increasingly cracking down on cell phone use and texting.Starting April 4 and throughout the month, participating regional agencies will join more than 225 agencies statewide, plus 103 CHP area commands in conducting zero-tolerance enforcements.We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously, said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson. Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to conduct zero-tolerance enforcement. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?Drivers who use handheld devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Younger, drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.In addition, studies show that texting while driving can delay a drivers reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver.We recognize that convincing drivers to refrain from using cell phones or texting while driving isnt easy, said Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher J. Murphy. Its very difficult to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call. Thats why we are stepping up enforcement and public awareness efforts. Convincing California drivers to wear seat belts 20 years ago wasnt easy either, but in 2010, more than 96 percent buckled up and thousands of lives were saved.Studies show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and handheld cell phone conversations, both of which can result in inattention blindness which occurs when the brain isnt seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road.There are simple measures drivers can take to minimize distractions in the vehicle: Turn your phone off or put it out of reach before starting the car. Alert callers that you are unable to take calls when driving by changing your voice mail message. Make it a point not to call or text anyone who may be driving, such as during the commute to and from work or school, especially parents calling teen drivers. If you do need to make an important call or respond to a text message, pull over to a safe place to do so. If going cold turkey is too much of a stretch, and you just cant turn your phone off, consider using one of the available mobile phone apps that holds calls and incoming texts.We just want drivers to use some common sense when theyre behind the wheel and focus on driving, said Murphy. Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive every day. Were any really worth a $159 ticket -- or worse, a crash, injury or death? Its just not worth it.