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Police to crack down on texting, putting on makeup while driving

April 4, 2012 |  7:22 am

Distracted Driving

Californians who have yet to hang up their cellphones when behind the wheel may want to start this month. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and law enforcement plans to aggressively enforce laws involving distracted driving.

Law enforcement agencies from around the state will be honing in on such drivers throughout the month, adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy in hopes of curbing distracted driving, Sgt. Denise Joslin of the California Highway Patrol said.

More than 50 agencies in the Los Angeles region are participating in the campaign. Officers will be conducting focused, specialized enforcement to catch distracted drivers -- and not just those fiddling with their cellphones.

“Not only using cellphones without hands-free headsets, but texting, maybe putting on makeup, reading the newspaper while driving,” she said, “all of those things are considered a distraction.”

Tickets for texting while driving begin at $159 for an initial violation and can grow by hundreds of dollars for each subsequent one, Joslin said.

Other moving violations, such as driving while applying makeup, can be nearly as costly.

Agencies also will conduct more than 50 traffic safety presentations in their jurisdictions.  

“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” said Captain Shaun J. Mathers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a statement. “Cellphone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting extra deputies on the road to enforce zero tolerance. Is that text message or cellphone call really worth $159?”

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on drivers' use of portable electronic devices. The agency urged states to ban the nonemergency use of hands-free devices as well as hand-held cellphones.

NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman, speaking at an agency board meeting in December, said the exponential growth of cellphone use has made distracted driving a rapidly growing problem.

In 2010, more than 3,000 people died in crashes believed to have been caused by distracted driving, according to the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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--Stephen Ceasar

Photo: A motorist appears to be texting while driving at Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills in January 2010. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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