San Diego

Driving Distracted? San Diego Sees 80 Percent Increase in Driver Citations

While most drivers know it's illegal to talk or text while holding their phone, the number of tickets being given out has more than tripled in the past few years.

In addition to talking and texting, it's illegal to use your phone for GPS while driving unless it's mounted to your cars dashboard or center console. 

Those under the age of 18 can never talk and drive, even if hands-free. Still, many drivers break this law every day. 

NBC 7 Investigates wanted to know how many cell phone tickets were being given and exactly where drivers were being cited. 

Data obtained from the San Diego Police Department shows from the years 2016 to 2017, the city of San Diego saw an 80 percent increase in all types of distracted driving citations. 

That includes a 345 percent increase for tickets given to motorists who were texting while driving. 

One possible reason for the jump could be the passage of a state law last year, prohibiting drivers from holding a phone while driving, even if they are using GPS. 

If you're driving and using your phone in Cortez Hill, near downtown, your chance of getting a ticket is even higher. In the last 4 years, the San Diego Police Department has given out the most distracted driving tickets, 637 total, on the 1300 block of 10th Avenue, according to police data.

The area with the next highest number of tickets issued is the 2700 block of Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, with a total of 288 citations. 

To see other areas in the city that saw the highest number of tickets handed out for distracted driving, look below or click here

San Diego Police says there is a reason for the high number of tickets in these areas. Officers believe car accidents in these communities are most often caused by distracted driving. 

In response, San Diego police say they set up officers on those specific blocks to catch people talking, texting, or touching their phones. 

Drivers who get these tickets are often annoyed. Clairemont resident Suzanne Bradley said she was in her car, waiting at a red light when she reached for her phone to change the music. 

“And right before I started driving I looked up and I saw there was a cop,” Bradley said. “As soon as I got on the freeway he turned his lights on and pulled me over.” 

The fine? More than $400. And it wasn't her first cell phone ticket. 

A few years before, Bradley got another. That time for holding her cell phone, and talking on speakerphone.

“I didn't think I was doing anything wrong,” she said. 

But in the end, Suzanne said getting the ticket served its purpose. “I guess I did learn my lesson.” 

There are a few exceptions to the new cell phone law. You can hold your phone to call 911 and you can turn a mounted GPS on or off, as long as only one tap or swipe is required to do so.

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