SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A new study says people are not getting the message about texting and driving. Some of the worst culprits are right here in California.

You see it all the time. The person in the next car, texting behind the wheel.

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Bay Area driver Felix Gutierrez chuckled when asked if he’s ever texted behind the wheel. “Actually, I don’t,” he says.

DiMond Lee works in San Francisco. He explains why he doesn’t. “I don’t like it when others do it, so I don’t.”

“No, because that’s against the law,” says Jessica Brown, who also works in the city.

The Bay Area used to boast some of the least distracted drivers on the road. But now, not so much.

“California was number seven in the ranking, meaning it’s almost one of the best states,” said Johnathan Matus, CEO and co-founder of Zendrive. “But at the moment it’s number 36.”

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Zendrive is a San Francisco-based driving analytics company. Matus says his company uses sensors on smartphones to measure driving behavior.

And the numbers Zendrive discovered over the past year are going up in California.

“Here in Silicon Valley, people are always glued to their phones, so I can’t say I’m surprised. But I am surprised that the numbers have been so bad,” says Matus.

Just how bad?

  • In San Francisco alone, there was a 60% increase in phone usage over the last year;
  • Californians in general spend 6.54% of their driving time on the phone;
  • That’s a 54.2% increase over the past 12 months.

This data was taken during the first full year the cellphone law was in effect, which prohibits drivers from having their phone in their hands for any reason.

Matus says despite the public relations campaigns we’ve already seen to encourage drivers to put their phones down, it’s clear that more needs to be done in order to make our roads safer.

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“Legislation by itself is not enough,” he says. “You also need education and you also need smart enforcement and I think both of these are lacking.”