Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies issued 54 tickets last Wednesday when they took part in a national campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“Definitely, that was stepped up law enforcement for that vehicle code enforcement,” said Sgt. Rich Cohen of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Traffic Unit.
The month is part of a campaign called “It’s not worth it,” meant to let people know the dangers of distracted driving. Local deputies are also taking part in the campaign April 16, Cohen said.
“There’s a belief that talking on the cellphone is as if you were driving impaired or drunk, because your mind is not focused,” said Cohen.
It’s one that Cohen “absolutely” agrees with, he said.
While state law calls for a $20 fine for a first offense and a $50 fine for each subsequent citation, the penalty assessments, which are set by state law, quickly add up.
A $50 fee, for example, has an assessment of $29 attached to it for every $10 in fine amount, in addition to the original fine amount, according to figures available at the LASC website.
That brings the total to $195 for a $50 ticket.
“It’s rather complicated,” said Mary Hearn, Los Angeles Superior Court spokeswoman, explaining the assessments. “It’s why people sometimes go into cardiac shock when they see what their $100 fine has become.”
She also mentioned that in addition to being a statutory assessment, the court does not keep the money it collects on tickets and fines.
“We pay out all of the money that we collect, right out the doors to different funds,” Hearn said. “We take in the money but then we send it all right back out again, according to the differenty codes (on the ticket).”
Here’s an overview of the current law for distracted driving (A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.):
* Adult drivers (18 and older) banned from using cell phones unless they employ hands-free devices.
* Text messaging banned for all drivers. The law prohibits use of electronic devices to “write, send, or read a text-based communication” is outlawed. Hands-free and voice-controlled texting allowed.
* Drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free accessories.
* School bus operators and transit bus drivers prohibited from using cell phones while driving.