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Tougher cell phone use law in effect
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If you’re going to be using your cell phone while driving in 2017, you might want to get a Bluetooth headset or connect your phone to your vehicle’s cellular hookup.
That’s because the police aren’t giving any breaks when it comes to enforcing the new distracted driving law that went into effect at midnight on New Year’s Day – making it illegal for drivers to have their phone in their hands while they’re behind the wheel.
The law, which only further strengthens the state’s existing distracted driving laws, requires that drivers stow their cell phone on their person if they’re behind the wheel. Those who opt for a dash mount will still be able to use features like navigation mapping, but the days of holding your phone and talking on the speaker function in order to avoid a costly ticket (which was still technically illegal) are over.
According to Manteca Police Department Lieutenant Paul Carmona, the department has received a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety to increase awareness for the new distracted driving guidelines and enforce the law. According to Carmona, that means that patrol officers will be more vigilant while out in the community looking for offenders, and overtime patrols intended to search for those who skirt the law are also planned for the near future.
And while specific enforcement periods aren’t officially set in Lathrop, according to Lathrop Police Services Sergeant Matt Lindemann, it will be a priority for officers in the New Year and something that the entire department focuses on as they work to keep the streets of Lathrop safe for all motorists.
“Distracted driving isn’t only one of the leading causes of collisions, but it keeps people from paying attention to what is going on around them and that becomes dangerous for everybody,” said Lindemann, who at one time served as the department’s motorcycle officer. “This new law closes the loophole that allowed people to say that they weren’t texting but using their GPS and in the long run it will make everybody safer.”
Lindemann said that enforcement will be a top priority of not only the motor officer, but all who patrol the streets. He also noted that there hadn’t been a serious accident in Lathrop attributed to distracted driving in years, and that the department benefitted from the same Office of Traffic Safety grant for additional patrols that Manteca will use to kick start its enforcement.
According to the California Office of Traffic safety, 80 percent of all vehicle accidents are a result of some kind of driver inattention and as many as 3,000 people are killed every year because of drivers that are distracted when they are operating a motor vehicle. A driver that is traveling 55 miles per hour that takes their eyes of the road for only five seconds can travel the length of a football field, according to the department, without realizing what is in front of them. Most collisions happen with less than two seconds of reaction time.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.