California Dreamers

To the relief of many truck drivers, California law enforcement agencies are this month targeting what they call “Zombie” drivers — those who “redirect their attention from the road to some other distracting behavior, like talking on a cell phone or text messaging,” according to Deborah Whistler, in her April 3 FleetOwner.com feature.

More than 200 local law enforcement agencies and 103 California Highway Patrol (CHP) offices will be participating in the month-long effort aimed at reinforcing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and reducing the number of accidents and injuries involved.

The CHP and California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), together with ImpactTeenDrivers.org and law enforcement agencies statewide have launched this second annual National Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign, titled “It’s Not Worth It!”

In April, 2011, more than 52,000 citations (four times the monthly average) were issued by law enforcement statewide. A first-time citation will cost a minimum of $159, with a second violation at least $279.

Drivers need to ask themselves, “Is that phone call or text message worth my life or the lives of those around me?” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Every distraction affects a driver’s reaction time, and things can change without notice.”

According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, the act of talking on a cell phone can reduce more than 35% of the brain activity needed for driving. Essentially, distractions change a seemingly good driver into a “zombie” behind the wheel, Farrow said.

NHTSAs “8 Tips” for managing some of the most common distractions:
Turn cell phones off or switch to silent mode before you get in the vehicle.
Set up a special message to tell callers that you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, or sign up for a service that offers this.
Pull over to a safe area if you need to make a call or, if possible, ask a co-driver or passenger to make the call for you.
Don’t ever text, or surf the web or read your email while driving. Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it’s against the law in most states.
Familiarize yourself with state and local laws. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones. Check the NHTSA site for details.
Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a co-driver or passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to       review the map/directions again.
Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the vehicle. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
Focus on driving and driving only. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.

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