Zero tolerance for using cell phone while driving

By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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This month the Folsom Police Department will have “zero tolerance” for those texting or operating hand-held cell phones while driving. “By now, you should have seen our billboards as part of this month’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign,” said Sgt. Jason Browning, Folsom Police Department public information officer. “Drivers who break the law and place themselves and others in danger will be cited.” This April will see more than 225 local agencies plus the 103 CHP Area Commands conducting zero tolerance enforcements, he said. Browning said the current minimum ticket cost is $159, with subsequent tickets costing at least $279. “We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” said Folsom Chief Randy Ulibarri. “Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?” Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, Browning said. Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Some locals are glad to see Folsom follow the zero tolerance policy. “It’s really important to keep your eyes open on the road because you never know who will cut in front of you,” said Brenda Sims, of Rescue. “You can’t be a good defensive driver if you’re busy doing something other than driving.” Studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver, Browning said. He said studies also show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in “inattention blindness” which occurs when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers’ focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road. Folsom resident Pamela San Martin knew someone who was involved in a car accident while texting and thinks it’s important to put the cell phone down while driving. “This (zero tolerance policy) is a good idea especially in Folsom because we always have people walking around and riding bicycles around town, and a distracted driver could easily lose control and kill someone while driving their car,” she said. Folsom Middle School seventh-grader Sofia Castro, 12, of Folsom also thinks people should stop using cell phones while driving. “If texting, you could easily get distracted and get in an accident,” Castro said. “When I start driving I won’t be using my cell phone while driving.”