California News

Apr 5, 2011 1:26 AM by Bill Halter

Local woman helps kick off Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The California Highway Patrol has marked April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and a local mother who's son was killed by a distracted driver put a face to the cause. 19-year old Eric Okerblom was riding his bicycle near Santa Maria in 2009 when he was hit and killed by a teenage driver who was texting. Eric's mom Eilene spoke at a C-H-P press conference on Monday to kick off a month long campaign to deter drivers from losing focus on the roadways.

"Eric was just beginning to enjoy his life, he had so much potential, he was brilliant, he was athletic, he was gifted. He was kind and compassionate. The world needed him and he's gone because somebody was engaging in a deadly behavior behind the wheel" said Eilene to a room of reporters and law enforcement personel.

At Eric Okerblom's former high school, St. Joseph, this week is being dedicated to distracted driving education. An all-school assembly was held on Monday to educate students on the danger of distracted driving. "We want them to know and understand, this could happen to them. They could be the victim, they could be the person causing the death or causing the serious injury" said St. Joseph principal Joseph Myers.

California Highway Patrol officer Adam Cuevas says there are three kinds of distracted driving. "Visual, taking your eyes off the road. Manual, taking your hands off the wheel. And cognitive, taking your mind off what you're doing."

The C.H.P. says in 2009, 116-people lost their lives on California roads because of a collision in which at least one driver was distracted. More than 17,000 others were injured under similar circumstances.

The fine for a first time texting or hand held cell-phone violation is $159. The C.H.P. says if your going to talk on the phone while driving, use a hands free device.

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