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Poll: Cellphone-driving bans not working; state ramps up anyway

Poll: Cellphone-driving bans not working; state ramps up anyway
A motorist appears to be texting while driving through the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The state of California has several laws aimed at cracking down on drivers using cellphones, but it may all be for naught.

Motorists seem to be ignoring these laws.

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A survey released Friday appears to back that up. Nationally, the number of people using cellphones or electronic devices while behind the wheel remained steady from 2010 to 2012, according to the poll released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

That means at any given time during the day, 660,000 people are using their cellphones in some way while driving.

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Here in California, nearly 450,000 convictions were handed out last year to people violating the state’s laws on distracted driving.

To combat the problem, the state is observing “Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” which means 225 local law enforcement agencies in the state, and the California Highway Patrol, are ramping up efforts to target offenders during April.

If you’re ticketed, the first offense will cost at least $159; subsequent offenses start at $279.

Can enforcement actually work?  California Office of Traffic Safety officials cite both seat belt and passenger safety seat laws as examples of successful initiatives.

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However, the president of a road-safety group is skeptical. Jeff Larson, president of the Safe Road Alliance, says the results of the survey show that this issue is tougher to solve than other campaigns. The solution, he says, is more-uniform laws throughout the country, making violators easier to spot.

These laws “would let the police know that if drivers are holding a phone in their hand and manipulating, it they are breaking the law,” he said.

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@jimmyorr

jimmy.orr@latimes.com


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