Police urge motorists to 'Silence the Distractions'

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State law enforcement agencies are partnering to discourage motorists from driving while distracted.

Los Altos Police are upping traffic enforcement April 15 to discourage distracted driving.

“If your eyes are off the road, you don’t know what is in front of you,” said Los Altos Traffic Sgt. Scott Bunch. “And when you’re not paying attention to your surroundings, the likelihood of a collision increases.”

The April 15 crackdown will serve as the midpoint in April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign, a statewide law enforcement effort to educate residents, especially young drivers, about the dangers of distracted driving.

More than 200 law enforcement agencies have joined in this month’s campaign, calling for drivers to “Silence the Distractions” by turning off their cellphones to avoid texting, talking or browsing social media.

“Generally speaking, I think people are doing a much better job than a few years ago by using hands-free cellphone devices,” Bunch noted. “We do see people still texting from time to time.”

In the average time it takes to check a text message – less than 5 seconds – a car traveling 60 mph can travel more than the length of a football field, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, but motorists usually have less than a second to react to an urgent situation.

During times of high-visibility enforcement, Bunch said Los Altos Police focus on areas around schools and those with high traffic. In the latter areas, officers patrol on motorcycles.

“When traffic backs up on busy roads, we can split the lane to get up through the limit line,” Bunch said. “Going though nice and slow, we will see people sitting there and texting away.”

Distracted driving isn’t limited to illegal phone time. Police also encourage motorists not to eat or drink, groom, become too involved with passengers or pick up items off the floor while driving.

Sound like common sense? That’s the hope.

“The point behind this is trying to make motorists aware that certain behaviors that you might to do while your vehicle is in drive could lead to accidents,” Bunch said. “Ideally, you want all your focus on the roadway.”

Key stats on distracted driving

In an effort to drive home the point, the Office of Traffic Safety offers the following statistics and facts.

• Talking or texting on a cellphone is the No. 1 cited source of driver distraction.

• 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention.

• In 2014, nearly 53 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to making a driving mistake while talking on a cellphone.

• In 2014, 61 percent of drivers surveyed revealed that they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cellphone.

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