Santa Monica police officers will be on the lookout for those talking or texting with their cell phones while driving. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — The next time you think about sending a text while driving — even if it’s just something as simple as “almost there” — you might want to think again.
During the month of November, Santa Monica police officers will be targeting drivers talking or texting on cell phones as part of a campaign to decrease the number of traffic collisions in the city by the sea.
Motor officers have already conducted stings to catch drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians and the SMPD routinely conducts sobriety/drivers’ license checkpoints to catch motorists who are impaired or driving without a valid license.
Cell phone use is particularly dangerous and the SMPD has received complaints from residents who want cops to crack down on the illegal practice.
Since 2008, it has been against the law in California to talk on a hand-held cell phone. The ban on texting followed in 2009.
Tickets for cell phone violations are $20 for the first offense and $50 for the second. But with court costs and other fees, the total cost of a ticket can be more than triple the base fine amount, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
The National Safety Council estimates at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes — or at least 1.6 million crashes each year — involve drivers using cell phones. The council estimates that 1.4 million crashes each year involve drivers talking on cell phones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year involve drivers who are texting.
That translates into more than 5,400 deaths and nearly 550,000 injuries, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The Santa Monica Police Department asks everyone to drive responsibly, watch the road and avoid being distracted by pulling to the side of the road before using any handheld device.
What constitutes a violation?
• A driver (of any age) holding a cell phone in his/her hand and using the speaker phone, or as is most commonly seen, holding the cell phone to the ear (whether on speaker phone or not), would constitute a violation of 23123(a) of the California Vehicle Code.
• Juveniles are not allowed to use cell phones at all while driving with or without an ear piece, and whether or not on speaker phone.
• “Write, send, or read a text-based communication” means using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail and would constitute a violation of 23123.5(a) of the California Vehicle Code. Scrolling for a name or phone number in a cell phone, or entering a phone number does not constitute texting.

kevinh@smdp.com

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