We’ve all experienced at one time or another, sharing the road with a distracted driver; whether it’s someone texting while driving and swerving out of their lane or being stuck behind someone at a stoplight who is jabbering on their phone and hasn’t realized that the light has been green for several seconds, driving alongside distracted drivers can be both irksome and dangerous. That is why the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety will be out in full force this April for Distracted Driving Awareness Month, where officers will be putting an emphasis on distracted driving awareness for motorists, as well as designating certain days for distracted driving enforcement.
While it’s already been a decade since the hands-free law passed in California with people starting to talk less on their phones while driving, drivers still have copious amounts of distractions at their fingertips, such as texting or playing with phone apps.
According to a news release from the RP Department of Public Safety, “Distracted driving remains a serious safety challenge in California.”
And over the past three years traffic officers have issued hundreds of thousands of citations to motorists texting and using their cell phone despite legislation passed making it illegal to use smartphone apps while driving. No matter what, drivers can’t seem to keep their eyes and fingers unglued from their screens.
In 2011 the California Office of Traffic Safety conducted an observational traffic and driver study of handheld cell phone use throughout the years and while statistics of drivers texting and talking have gone down, it’s still an issue on the road. 2017 data shows that around 22,000 California drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions.
“This year’s study on the use of handheld cell phones and texting shows a decrease over past years; however, more work needs to be done to target those who were observed to still be breaking the law,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft in a statement regarding distracted driving. “The best way to put an end to distracted driving is to educate California about the danger it poses. We will do this through enforcement and education efforts like our new advertising campaign.”
This new campaign aims to remind drivers with their new mantra, “Put your phone down. Just drive,” a saying they hope will keep drivers focused on the road. This reminder will be reinforced with the California Department of Transportation’s message of, “A text or call could wreck it all,” which will be posted on their changeable freeway message signs across the state.
In addition to the OTS ad campaign, April 5 and 13th will be the two, state-wide designated enforcement days and RPPS will be joining in on the statewide effort.
“We have two days this month with an extra officer dedicated to traffic citations for distracted drivers. I’ve already written four myself,” says Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, Sgt. Jerrod Marshall. He too mentioned that it has been decreasing yet there are still a lot of distracted drivers on the road.
“Last year in 2017 we had 86 different cell phone distracted driving citations. It has been decreasing, but there are still a lot out there,” Marshall said.
So, what can drivers do to stop that sneaking urge to check your phone or respond to a text when you hear that “ping” text tone? Marshall says putting your phone somewhere in the car where it cannot be reached can be helpful for drivers.
“If you have to fight the urge to pick up your phone, then put it in the backseat or the trunk. Or, designate a passenger as your texter and allow them access to your phone,” Marshall mentioned. In the same news release, Marshall also said of cell phone use, “Smart phones are part of everyone’s lives now. Texting, phone calls and posting on social media are nearly addicting. But doing these things can have deadly consequences while driving on our city’s streets. Changing these dangerous habits will help make our roadways safer for everyone.”
Today, RPPS officers will be out from 12 to 8 p.m. at various city locations that typically have frequent traffic collisions to enforce the hands-free law. Violators will be stopped and cited with a fine of $162 for first time offenders, so remember, “one text or call could wreck it all,” and land you with a pricey citation, so put that phone down and keep your eyes on the road.