The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Sheriff’s Station saw a roughly 67 percent decrease in the number of tickets given out for cellphone usage while driving last month.
Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Shapiro said Wednesday that local deputies wrote 95 tickets in April, down from 290 in April 2011. California’s cellphone law went into effect in 2009, with the tickets costing around $150.
That downturn was due in large part to the fact that one of the deputies responsible for a large number of the 2011 tickets was out of the field until recently, Shapiro said.
“For statistical purposes, it looks like the law’s working,” Shapiro said, but added that violation of the law “is still happening.”
The station also saw a large decrease in tickets issued between Jan. 1 and April 30 of this year versus last year, Shapiro said. In the first four months of this year, deputies wrote 348 tickets for cellphone use while driving, down from 902 tickets between January and April 2011.
Distracted driving, Shapiro said, “has always been a problem. … Driving is a multitask function. You need to have all your attention on the road.”
Shapiro noted that while law enforcement officials are exempt from the law in the course of duty, “I try to pull over (to use my phone) because people give you dirty looks.”
While the Sheriff’s Station saw a reduction in April tickets, overall the state saw an uptick in tickets written for distracted driving. On Wednesday, the state Office of Traffic Safety said in April 2012 the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies issued more than 57,000 tickets, up from 52,000 tickets in April 2011.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing that the problem of cellphone use for talking and texting while driving is not going away anytime soon,” OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy said in a news release. “There are those who understand the dangers and have curtailed their use, while others think the hazards apply to everyone else but them. We can’t stop until we convince everyone that they are putting their own life and others around them at risk with this perilous behavior.”
The Office of Traffic Safety last week released the results of a statewide observational survey, concluding that more than 10 percent of drivers were using cellphones while driving at any given time. The survey also reported that the number of drivers between 16 and 25 years old using a cellphone while driving at any time was 18 percent, up from 9 percent in 2011.
In that survey, researchers reportedly went to more than 130 intersections in 17 California counties to observe whether drivers had a phone to their ear, were wearing a Bluetooth or headset device, were manipulating a handheld device or were talking while holding a phone in their hand but not to their ear.