By Mary O’KEEFE
As part of April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, along with over 200 other law enforcement agencies, will be participating in a “zero tolerance” program for those texting or using their hand-held cellphone while driving.
Participating law enforcement agencies will concentrate their efforts on April 18 to those drivers who “break the law and place themselves and others in danger,” according to an LASD statement. However during the entire month law enforcement will be focusing their efforts on educating and enforcing the distracted driver laws.
“This is a statewide program,” said Sgt. Gary Ogurek, LASD Crescenta Valley Station.
Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station covers traffic issues in La Cañada and California Highway Patrol is responsible for any traffic issues within Los Angeles unincorporated area, La Crescenta.
“We will [give] citations for anyone texting or using cellphones without a hands-free device,” said Officer Kevin Denmon, California Highway Patrol.
He added law enforcement would be looking for all types of distracted driving behavior.
“Anyone eating, putting on make-up or shaving,” Denmon said of those behaviors that CHP will be looking out for.
“Studies show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cellphone conversations, both of which can result in ‘inattention blindness’ which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the driver’s focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road,” according to the LASD statement.
Denmon said he has seen an increase in distracted drivers as technology use increases.
“They are on cellphones, texting, on their iPad or Facebook and [Global Positioning Systems],” Denmon said. “[All can be] a distraction.”
Ogurek said the drivers in the La Cañada area are aware of the law, however there are a few who ignore it.
“We wrote 28 citations last month for texting and [not using] a hands-free device while driving,” he said.
The hands-free law does not just pertain to drivers, but to bicyclists as well, Ogurek added.
“You are not immune to this law if you are on a bike,” he said.