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May 24, 2010 8:54 PM by Monica Quintero

Santa Maria police have a warning for drivers

It's dangerous and can turn deadly. The Santa Maria police chief said texting and talking on cell phones while driving is quote-- "out of control" in the city.

It's been almost two years since the hands-free law went into effect. Since then, Santa Maria police have issued around 3,000 citations for talking and texting while driving. The police department is also in the process of doing a public service announcement on the issue with a local family who lost their son to a distracted driver.

It only took a few minutes to spot someone breaking the law. Norberto Ayala was caught talking on a cell phone and driving.

KSBY News Reporter Monica Quintero asked the driver,"You know this is against the law?" Ayala said, "Yeah. I got the cable but I never use the blue tooth." Quintero goes on to ask, "Why do you keep doing this if you know it's against the law?" Ayala said, "Because it's easy."

Police Chief Dan Macagni, Santa Maria police, said, "Innocent people are going to get hurt, it's got to stop. This message has to get out."

To get the message out, Chief Macagni said the police department is working with a Santa Maria family on a public service announcement. 19-year-old Eric Okerblom was killed last summer by a distracted driver. He said, "They are of the attitude it won't happen to me. I'm a careful driver. In a matter of seconds, you can take somebody's life."

Police said a lot of times people will be texting or talking on their cell phone, spot an officer and hope they didn't see them. They'll then drop their cell phone and pretend as if nothing ever happened. Chief Macagni said, "The largest percentage of them are just ignoring it. They know darn well it's against the law." Quintero asked Ayala, "Are you going to be doing this again?" He said, "No. I think no but maybe." Quintero goes on to ask, "Can you continue to pay $142?" He said, "No. it's a big fine with the economy like this."

Chief Macagni said, "It's unacceptable here, we have a zero tolerance. If we stop you, we're going to write you a ticket. Don't get mad at us, get mad at yourself." As for Ayala, here's something interesting. This was his second time to be pulled over for this. He just paid a ticket of $142 for talking on a cell phone and driving.

That's typically what you'll end up dishing out for this crime. Chief Macagni also said a peak time for this problem is between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. when people are driving home from work. He said during that time about 50-percent of the drivers are not following the hands-free law.

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