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Texting, phoning while driving could be a costly end-of-2011 surprise

Auburn CHP taking part in pre-New Year’s “zero tolerance” cell phone distracted-driving crackdown
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Auburn’s California Highway Patrol officers are on a 24-hour mission Friday through early Saturday. From 6 a.m. Friday until 6 a.m. New Year’s Eve, officers patrolling from the Newcastle office will be joining in a “zero tolerance” cell phone enforcement day aimed at citing drivers distracted by their cell phones. Officer Dave Montijo, of the Auburn office, said officers throughout the Valley Division coverage area taking in the Sacramento area and Placer County will be paying special attention to cell phone and texting violations during the day-long crackdown. “Improper cell phone use is one of the leading identifiable contributing factors in inattentive traffic collision in California,” Montijo said. Montijo said New Year’s Eve is also a maximum enforcement period, which means more highway patrol officers than usual will be on guard for cell phone use infringements by drivers. “The campaign is designed to deter people from using their cell phones if they don’t have a hands-free device or who are texting while driving,” Montijo said. Since hands-free requirements for drivers were instituted in California midway through 2008, half a million citations have been issued for motorists using phones in cars. Another 11,634 citations were issued statewide for texting while driving. Cell phone violations carry a minimum base fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for the second. When court costs and other fees are added to the fines, the total cost of the violation quickly exceeds $100 for the first offense – which can be less than the cost of a Bluetooth hands-free device. Montijo said that the New Year’s long weekend is also a time for drivers to refrain from getting behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking. While no checkpoints are scheduled, more highway patrol officers are on the road because of the anticipated higher rate of drinking and driving. “Buzzed driving is DUI,” Montijo said. By the numbers 500,000 – Citations issued for motorists using phones in cars 11,634 – Citations issued for texting while driving $20 – First offense $50 – Second offense Source: California Highway Patrol. Numbers represent California citations since hands-free regulations instituted in mid-2008