Napa Police Cracking Down On Distracted Drivers

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(AP)

(AP)

NAPA (KCBS) – Distracted drivers caused almost 6,000 deaths and nearly half a million injuries nationwide in 2009.

Now, California law enforcement agencies are looking to crack down on offenders, designating April as Distracted Driver Awareness Month.

“Officers throughout California and in the city of Napa will be looking for those drivers that are using handheld cell phone devices, whether it be texting and or talking on a device,” said Napa Police Sergeant Mike Hensley.

KCBS’ Rebecca Corral Reports:

Hensley said his agency is one of many intensifying efforts to catch people doing the wrong thing.

“As far as the city of Napa, we had a fatal collision in February that was attributed to distracted driving and cell phone use,” he said.

Sergeant Hensley said many people don’t seem to realize how dangerous talking or texting while driving really is.

“There’s been some studies that have shown that inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distracted-related fatality crashes,” he said. “Drivers that are using handheld cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes. When you’re operating a handheld device and texting, you’re basically the equivalent of a .08 blood alcohol, which is the legal limit for DUI.”

The first ticket starts at $159 for offenders, with the dollar amount increasing with each subsequent ticket.

The state of California enacted a ban on handheld cell phone use while driving in 2008.  The monthlong campaign,  which will involve the California Highway Patrol and 225 local California police agencies, begins on Monday.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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