Apr 3, 2013 10:06 PM by April Hansen, KSBY News

CHP on the look out for distracted drivers

If you text or talk on your cell phone while driving, be prepared to pay a hefty fine, especially this month.

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month and state and local law enforcement agencies are cracking down on people who text or use a hand-held cell phone while they are behind the wheel.

If a driver is caught using a hand-held device it is a minimum fine of $159.

California is one of ten states where it is illegal to use any type of handheld device and officers say they are actively patrolling the streets this month to find drivers breaking the law.

"Usually what will suffer is your driving," said Officer Daniel Mota, California Highway Patrol. "Rather than notice other cars, even police officers, they are so focused on what they are doing they fail to see us come up on them."

If a driver is spotted talking, texting or reading an email with a hand held device, Officer Mota says they will be pulled over.

"That's illegal to do unless you have an emergency," said Officer Mota.

Last year, more than 57,000 tickets were written statewide to distracted drivers.

"The only way you can use a cell phone period would be if you have a hands-free device," said Officer Mota. "If they have their hands or their phone either in front of them or to their ear it would appear they are speaking and their lips appear to be verbalizing."

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says drivers are 23 times more likely to cause an accident if they are using their cell phone and Officer Mota says it's his job to make sure drivers are reminded it's not safe.

"Whether it's a car accident or a near accident, it simply is not worth talking on your phone," said Officer Mota.

Nationally, more then 3,300 people died in crashes caused by distracted drivers in 2011.

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