Patrol officers in Beaumont and other cities throughout Riverside County will increase scrutiny of motorists beginning April 1, looking to crack down on inattentive drivers.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the California Highway Patrol, Beaumont Police Department and other agencies will step up efforts to catch people texting while driving or using mobile phones without a hands-free device.
"Because we see the aftermath of these totally preventable crashes, we take the issue of distracted driving very seriously," said Beaumont Police Department Cmdr. Sean Thuilliez. "Is that text message or cellphone call really worth $161 -- or worse, someone's life?"
The minimum fine for texting or talking on a handheld device while driving is $161, with fines running as high as $281 for repeat offenders.
Beaumont police officers will take part in "high visibility enforcement operations" geared to raising awareness about the dangers of inattentive driving, Thuilliez said.
According to statistics, a four-second pause to look down while sending a text means a motorist traveling at freeway speeds has his or her eyes off the road enough time to travel beyond the length of a football field.
"Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves," according to a Beaumont Police Department statement.
"In addition, 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."
State law permits drivers 18 and over to use handheld devices to talk -- not text -- as long as the devices are hands-free, such as those used with an earpiece. Drivers under 18 are not permitted to use any handheld device of any kind unless it's an emergency.
– City News Service.