Month-long crackdown on distracted driving begins; 50 citations issued

GLENDALE— Glendale police on Monday begun a persistent, month-long crackdown on distracted driving, taking part in a statewide push against hand-held cell phone use.

Traffic officers were out in force and looking for motorists who were talking or texting while behind the wheel.

As of 1:30 p.m., four officers, each working a six-hour enforcement period, had cited 51 motorists for talking on hand-held cell phones while driving, Glendale Police Sgt. Dennis Smith said. Another seven motorists were cited for texting while driving, he added.

“I think the word is getting out,” he said.

Police begun cracking down on distracted drivers in February. Since that time, officers conducted five grant-funded enforcement operations and have cited more than 400 motorists for distracted driving, Smith said.

The operations have been funded through a $254,795-state grant aimed at decreasing the number of distracted drivers. Glendale’s police department was the first to be awarded a distracted-driving grant.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state this month will conduct zero-tolerance days dedicated to enforcing the state’s cell phone law.

“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said in a statement. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?”

The first texting citation costs $159. A first citation for talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving also costs $159. Additional tickets for violating the cell phone law will cost $279.

California Office of Traffic Safety officials said they hope the inaugural campaign against distracted driving will gain momentum among motorists, especially young drivers who are more likely to become involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes.

Other campaigns, including one aimed at increasing seatbelt-use among drivers and passengers, have been effective in gaining compliance, the agency’s spokesman Chris Cochran said.

More than 275 law enforcement agencies are participating in the state’s campaign, which will focus on enforcement and public education, he said.

“They see what the problem is,” Cochran said.

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