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Statewide Crackdown On Distracted Driving Kicks Off Monday

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(credit: AP Photo/Al Goldis)

(credit: AP Photo/Al Goldis)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Los Angeles police plan to join a statewide “zero tolerance” enforcement crackdown on drivers texting or using their cell phones without hands-free technology, officers said Sunday.

California’s first “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” kicks off at 6 a.m. Monday, Los Angeles police Lt. Ron Katona of the department’s Traffic Coordination Section said.

“We take the issue of distracted driving very, very seriously,” Katona said. “The ongoing, irresponsible practice of drivers using their cell phones and texting has to stop. The practice is such a serious concern that the LAPD embraces the zero tolerance strategy and fully supports the Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

“Is a text message or cell phone call really worth risking injury or death?” he asked.

Officials said studies reveal that drivers who use handheld devices are four times as likely to be involved in serious traffic crashes that result in injuries. Younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

“We recognize that convincing drivers to refrain from using cell phones or texting while driving isn’t easy,” Christopher J. Murphy, director of the state’s Office of Traffic Safety, said. “It’s very difficult to resist the urge to check an incoming text or answer a cell phone call. That’s why we are stepping up enforcement and public awareness efforts.”

Studies also reveal that texting while driving delays a driver’s reaction time just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a drunken driver.

“Convincing California drivers to wear seatbelts 20 years ago wasn’t easy either, but in 2010 more than 96 percent buckled up and thousands of lives were saved,” Murphy said.

“Think about the vast majority of calls and texts you send or receive every day,” he said. “Were any really worth a crash, injury or death? It’s just not worth it.”

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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