California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) and other agencies are working to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
April is recognized by the National Safety Council as National Distracted Awareness Month, and April 3-9 is California Teen Safe Driver Week, but the goal is to end distracted driving year round, according to California law enforcement in a statement.
Law enforcement agencies will give educational presentations at high schools and venues throughout California to show students the consequences of distracted driving.
“We’ll have seat belt challenges, a distracted driver simulator and interactive booths for kids to grasp the dangers of distracted driving,” said San Diego CHP Officer Joshua Nelson, regarding an upcoming presentation at Otay Lakes High School.
The virtual reality driving simulators will be provided by AT&T to demonstrate the dangers of smartphone distracted driving for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and as part of its IT CAN WAIT initiative.
“We encourage everyone to take the IT CAN WAIT pledge to keep your eyes on the road, not your phone, and help keep our roads safe,” said AT&T President Ken McNeely in a statement.
Nelson said CHP will be giving distracted driver safety seminars not just at schools but various venues and companies in the area, and the law enforcement focus throughout the month of April will be on distracted driver violations.
California law enforcement will have a zero tolerance for distracted driving, according to a CHP statement.
“Law enforcement would rather see everyone off their cell phones than hand out a lot of tickets," said Director of the Office of Traffic Safety Rhonda Craft. “Take care of calling, texting, setting your GPS and everything else before you hit the street.”
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving, according to research from the United States Department of Transportation.
Teens were the largest group reported as distracted at time of fatal crashes.
“We still have a long way to go to change attitudes and behaviors about distracted driving,” said Kelly Browning, Executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. “Just as it took a change in the driving culture through education and enforcement to reach a 98 percent seat belt compliance rate in California, so too will it take a multifaceted approach to eliminate distracted driving.”
Officers will be enforcing phone and texting laws, as well as other vehicle violations, including Assembly Bill 1785, which prohibits the use of wireless communication or use of GPS unless the device is voice operated, hands-free, installed in the car console or mounted to the vehicle’s dashboard.
Drivers are reminded that in California, those under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone or hands-free device while driving.