old-cell-phone.jpgThe California Highway Patrol is joining local law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area in stepping up enforcement of laws regarding cell phone use while driving as part of the state’s first-ever Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Starting today and continuing throughout April, the CHP and more than 250 local agencies statewide will be conducting zero tolerance enforcement programs targeting people using a cell phone to text or make a call without a hands-free device.

The first violation of the laws costs a minimum of $159, and subsequent tickets will cost $279, according to the CHP.

“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Teresa Becher said in a statement. “Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”

Studies show that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, with young, inexperienced drivers most at-risk to die in a distraction-related crash.

Studies have also found that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as much as having the blood alcohol content of a legally drunken driver.

“We just want drivers to use some common sense when they’re behind the wheel and focus on driving,” Christopher Murphy, director of the state’s Office of Traffic Safety, said in a statement.

“Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive everyday,” Murphy said. “Were any really worth a $159 ticket – or worse, a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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