April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and police are cracking down on local drivers.
As part of a grant issued by the California Office of Traffic Safety, the San Luis Obispo Police Department had additional officers looking specifically for drivers on their phones on April 9 and April 16.
From 7 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Officer Paul Sisemore says three officers issued about 30 citations. First-time offenders face a $162 fine and at least a $285 fine for a second offense.
Police say most drivers have Bluetooth capability on their steering wheel but failed to use it.
Officer Sisemore says drivers sometimes have the wrong idea about what they can and can’t do behind the wheel.
“I’d say the most common one is thinking that it’s okay because they’re at a stoplight. Well, you’re still in drive, you’re still in the driver’s seat, you’re still on the roadway,” Officer Sisemore added.
It’s legal to use a hand-held cell phone for emergencies including calling the police, the fire department, or a doctor. That doesn’t include texting your boss to say you’ll be late.
“if you’re going to use your cell phone, it has to be mounted on the dashboard or on the lower seven inches on the driver’s side window. There are only two things you can do: a one finger wipe to activate it or hold the home button down to activate Siri or voice activation commands,” Sisemore said.
Drivers caught Tuesday admit cell phone use is a bad habit that can be tough to break.
“I know it’s really, really dangerous,” said one woman who was pulled over Tuesday. “I find myself swerving a lot. It’s not good, it’s a very bad habit that I should stop.”
A change in habits could save a life.
CHP says 66 people were killed and more than 6,500 injured from distracted driving-related crashes in 2017.
Other distractions like eating, grooming or changing your clothes are just as dangerous and can result in a ticket for driving a speed unsafe for conditions or reckless driving, which carry larger fines and points against your driving record.