Police statewide to target drivers using cell phones illegally in April

The Arroyo Grande Police Department will be taking part in a statewide effort in April to ticket drivers using cell phones, according to a news release from the department.

Even though using cell phones without a hands-free device while driving is against the law in California, more than 57,000 tickets were written statewide for texting and hand-held cell use last April, according to police.

Nationwide, authorities estimate that 3,331 people died as a result of using cell phones while driving in 2011.

“We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn’t stop some people from continuing to do it,” Arroyo Grande Police Chief, Steven Annibali said in a statement.

“This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving.”

Studies show that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time "just as severely as having a blood alcohol content of a legally drunk driver," according to the announcement.

Authorities also say that younger, inexperienced drivers, typically younger than 20 years old, have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

The current minimum ticket cost for hand-held cell phone use while driving is $159 with subsequent tickets of at least $279, police said.

The Arroyo Grande Police Department also offered drivers the following tips:

Turn off your phone and/or put it out of reach while driving

Include in your outgoing message that you can’t answer while you are driving

Don’t call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving