A recent study from UC Berkley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) found that in examining data from the two years prior to, and two years following California’s ban on handheld cell phones while driving, traffic deaths had decreased by 22 percent. The study also found that fatalities in which handheld cell phone use was determined to be the cause were down by 47 percent over this same 4 year time span.
Additionally, the overall number of people chatting on a handheld cell phone while driving seems to have decreased as well. Thanks to a combination of what California Highway Patrol commissioner Joe Farrow calls “Highly visible and publicized enforcement,” and “the cooperation of the motoring public,” 40 percent of California drivers are reporting they talk less since the enactment of the ban.
In 2011, the Department of Motor Vehicles handed out 460,487 tickets to drivers using handheld cell phones, roughly 22 percent more than the 361,260 doled out in 2010. However, the increased enforcement seems to be doing its job, acting as a deterrent to would be cell phone users. In addition, to the threat of a $159 fine for motorists caught using their handheld while driving, the state’s “It’s Not Worth It!” public awareness campaign has been employing TV commercials, billboards, and social media in an effort to convince the public of the dangers of distracted driving.
Despite a statewide 2010 survey in which 62 percent of respondents listed texting and talking as the biggest safety concern on California roadways, a survey conducted by the Office of Traffic Safety in April of last year showed that approximately 9 percent of drivers are still talking and texting while driving. Some drivers still aren’t getting the message.
Fortunately, the bulk of the data shows California is making definite strides when it comes to combating distracted driving. Obviously there’s still more that can be done in terms of both education and enforcement, but anytime you can reduce fatal accidents by 22 percent it’s a step in the right direction.
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