Every day, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes according to the National Safety Council. Cell phones, dashboard touchscreens, voice commands and other in-vehicle technologies pose a threat to our safety. The consequences of these and other distractions are not worth the convenience they offer.
The City of Santa Cruz Police Department and Street Smarts campaign challenge drivers to ‘silence’ these distractions this April during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The new video from the National Safety Council offers help to reduce tempting distractions.
Our Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) is stopping drivers who violate California’s hands-free cell phone law along with law enforcement agencies statewide. Throughout April, SCPD will have additional officers on patrol looking specifically for drivers on their phones. Also this month, Street Smarts reminds the community to “Put the Phone Down” in print and 30-second video messages.
Last year SCPD issued 40 citations to drivers texting, calling or performing another function on their phone.
“Cell phones remain one of the top distractions for drivers,”said SCPD Sergeant Scott Garner. “Like any bad habit, it can be hard to break, but this habit can have life-altering consequences. That text or phone call will never be worth the cost of losing a life—which is why curbing distracted driving is high on our priority list.”
A 2018 observational survey by the California Office of Traffic Safety on driver cell phone use found about 4.5 percent of drivers are still using their cell phone illegally, a nearly 27 percent increase from 2016.
Under the most recent cell phone law, effective in 2017, drivers are prohibited from having a phone in their hand for any reason and can only use their phone in a hands-free manner. The phones must be mounted on the dashboard, windshield or center console, and can only be touched once with the swipe or tap of a finger to activate or deactivate a function. First-time offenders face a $162 fine.
If you need to make a call or text someone, pull over and park at a safe location. And if you are struggling to stay off the phone while driving, put your phone in a place you can’t reach, like the backseat or trunk.
This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, please join the united effort to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving.
More safe driving tips are available at www.cityofsantacruz.com/StreetSmarts.