Police target distracted drivers

GLENDALE — Applying lipstick, eating a burger or texting may land some distracted motorists a hefty citation today.

California Highway Patrol and Glendale police will step up enforcement on drivers using cell phones, eating, reading or doing anything else that may make them a danger on the road.

"Officers have been enforcing it, but it is difficult to catch people," said Officer Charmaine Fajardo, a CHP spokeswoman.

CHP officers have found that when they stop inattentive drivers, the driver often denies being distracted, Fajardo said. The same is the case for motorists caught texting or talking and holding a cell phone while driving, Glendale Police Sgt. Dennis Smith said.

Holding a cell phone while driving became illegal in July 2008, with fines ranging from $120 to $150.

Since that ban went into effect, she said officers have struggled to enforce the law.

"It's kind of like the seat-belt law," Fajardo said. "We have to go back and retrain people."

Fajardo said the two-day operation was not designed to punish motorists. Rather, she said, the operation was created to remind motorists of road laws and proper driving habits.

More than 30,000 people in 2008 were involved in traffic collisions in which distracted driving was a factor, according to the CHP's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. Of those drivers, more than 1,000 motorists were using a cell phone during the collisions.

A study from Highway Loss Data Institute, which is a nonprofit research organization, found that collision rates did not drop in states that established hand-held cell-phone bans. Despite this, law enforcement officials said it was vital to educate the public on the issue.

"I think it is extremely dangerous driving," Smith said.

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