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Police target texting, cell use while driving
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Getting behind the wheel of the car?

You might as well keep your cell phone in your pocket if you want to save yourself from a $281 ticket. 

On Thursday the Manteca Police Department, in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol, carried out a high visibility enforcement operation intended to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.

As part of the “It’s Not Worth It!” campaign the effort sought out drivers using hand-held devices while navigating Manteca’s roadways – intended to prevent the sort of fatal accidents that inattention and carelessness can directly be attributed to. 

According to a press release, research shows that drivers that use their cell phones while behind the wheel are four times as likely to get into a collision serious enough to injure themselves. Part of the reason for that is when a driver takes their eyes off the road even for just a few seconds – to, say, check a text message – they’ve already traveled a distance much further than they’ve realized. 

That sort of distraction, according to the study, can delay a driver’s reaction much the same way that having a blood alcohol level above the legal limit can.

Officers will again be out on April 8, 17 and 22 performing saturation patrols with the goal of thwarting motorists from injuring themselves or others. 

“We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously,” said Manteca Police chief Nick Obligacion, “because we see the aftermath of these totally preventable crashes. Is that text message or cell phone really worth $161, or worse, someone’s life.”

According to California law, drivers using a cell phone must utilize a hands-free device to allow for unexpected evasive maneuvering in the case of an emergency. 

Research, according to the Manteca Police, shows that there is no difference between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations because both take the driver’s attention away from what is taking place on the road and limits the brains ability to instinctively react the same way it would if it weren’t otherwise engaged.

Officers will be on the lookout throughout the month – the National Safety Council has named April Distracted Driving Awareness Month – and, like 200 other law enforcement agencies throughout the state, will be adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy towards violators. 

The minimum ticket fine in California is $161 but works out to at least $281 after all court fees and individual assessments are levied and totaled.