April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and law enforcement agencies are starting a month-long, zero-tolerance campaign to crack down on “zombie” drivers who text message or operate hand-held phones while behind the wheel.
South Lake Tahoe Police are participating in the statewide campaign with California Highway Patrol and more than 200 other local law enforcement agencies. Special high-visibility enforcement operations to cite cell phone violators are set for April 3, 8, 17 and 22.
The current minimum ticket cost is $161. Subsequent tickets are at least $281, according to the city of South Lake Tahoe.
“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously because we see the aftermath of these totally preventable crashes,” South Lake Tahoe Police Sgt. Shannon Laney said. “Is that text message or cell phone call really worth $161 or, worse, someone’s life?”
Research shows there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in “inattention blindness” when the brain isn’t seeing what is clearly visible because the driver’s focus is on the phone conversation and not the road, the city said in a press release announcing the enforcement campaign.
Texting while driving takes a driver’s eyes off the road and studies show it can delay a driver’s reaction time just as severely as being drunk.
“When over one-third of your brain’s functioning that should be on your driving moves over to cell-phone talking, you can become a cell-phone ‘zombie,’ the city said.