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Study finds some drivers doubled cellphone use despite state law

Driver on cellphone

Californians are increasingly talking or sending text messages on their cellphone while driving, a new study has found.

A statewide survey showed 10.8% of drivers use mobile devices at any given daylight time, an increase from 7.3% a year ago, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The largest increase was among 16 to 25 year olds, whose use doubled from 9% to 18%.

“These results are disturbing, but not entirely unforeseen,” OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy said in a news release. “Now that smartphones are becoming the majority, people are using them more often and in many more ways. This might be helpful in a lot of places, but definitely not behind the wheel.”

In April, law enforcement officials across the state made a concentrated effort to crack down on distracted driving and issued more than 57,000 tickets to motorists talking or texting on a cellphone. That is about 5,000 more than the number of tickets given out during a similar operation last year.

Motorists ticketed for a first infraction are generally fined a minimum of $159.

“It’s a frustrating problem," said Chris Cochran, a spokesman for OTS. "We were hoping that the first year of the campaign, which was 2011 basically, that we would hit the enforcement so hard and the public awareness so hard that it would stem the tide.

“It’s a brand new problem but it’s growing very quickly,” Cochran said.

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-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: A woman uses her hand-held cellphone while driving on Kenmore Street in Los Angeles in 2006. Credit: Béatrice de Géa / Los Angeles Times

 
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