Murrieta police handed out 21 tickets Wednesday to drivers who were allegedly caught texting or operating hand-held cellular devices.
The local crackdown was part of the “It’s Not Worth It!” enforcement, being conducted statewide as part of April's month-long Distracted Driving Awareness campaign.
Last April, more than 57,000 tickets were written statewide for texting and hand-held cell use. There were nearly 450,000 convictions in 2012.
The current minimum ticket cost for the offense if $159, with subsequent tickets costing at least $279.
Murrieta police are scheduled to conduct the day-long enforcement again on Tuesday, April 16, according to a news release.
Murrieta officers join others from more than 200 other local law enforcement agencies plus the CHP this month in conducting these zero tolerance enforcements.
Last April, more than 57,000 tickets were written statewide for driving while texting or using their hand-held cellular devices, Gruwell pointed out; during 2012, nearly 450,000 were convicted of the offense.
"Distracted driving is a serious traffic safety concern that puts everyone on the road at risk," Murrieta police traffic Sgt. Jim Gruwell stated. "In recent years, hundreds have been killed and thousands seriously injured in California as a result of collisions that involved at least one driver who was distracted."
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, Gruwell stated.
The greatest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes is found among drivers who are younger than 20, studies show.
"In addition, studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver," Gruwell stated.
There is also reportedly little difference in the risks resulting from hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations; both can result in “inattention blindness” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road, studies show.
"When over one third of your brain’s functioning that should be on your driving moves over to cell phone talking, you can become a cell phone 'zombie,'" Gruwell stated.
Murrieta police encouraged to turn off their phones and/or put them out of reach while driving, include in their voicemail message that they can not answer while driving, and not to call or text anyone else whom they think might be driving.
"This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cellphone use while driving," Gruwell stated. "We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road."
Once tabulated, Murrieta police plan to report the final number of tickets that were issued locally during the awareness campaign.
An additional 22 drivers were cited Wednesday in Murrieta for other alleged infractions as a result of the stepped-up enforcement, according to Gruwell.