LOS ANGELES - April is ‘Distracted Driving Awareness Month,’ and officers with the California Highway Patrol’s West Valley Division are testing an out-of-the-box approach to draw attention to the issue.
They created and posted a video to social media, showing an officer busting a young driver for texting at a red light.
"We have some silly personalities here at the office and we just took advantage of that," said CHP Officer David Galbraith.
He is part of the team behind the video, which is racking up views on social platforms.
"It’s just showcasing an officer maybe in a little bit of a silly light that people aren’t used to, so we’re glad that it’s memorable and it’s sticking in people’s minds and we hope it translates into people remembering to stay off their phones while they’re driving," he said.
Officer Galbraith and his colleagues have experimented with more traditional campaigns using pictures and text in the past, but found that they weren’t incredibly effective. The idea behind the video was to grab people’s attention in an approachable way and make it clear that there is zero tolerance and extra enforcement for distracted driving, especially during the month of April.
Studies show that drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they’re texting and driving, and young and inexperienced drivers are most at risk.
"We all see people on their phones, and especially in stop-and-go traffic - it leads to a lot of traffic collisions," said Galbraith.
He and his colleagues hope that the video makes an impact.
"Our message is just to remind people that it’s not worth it - the text message, the phone call can wait. If you have a passenger, pass the phone over and have them do it - focus your attention on driving."
2017 Distracted Driving Key Facts & Statistics
• According to the latest data, in 2013, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reported over 426,000 handheld cell phone and texting convictions, with more than 57,000 tickets issued in April alone. (California DMV and the California Office of Traffic Safety)
• In total, 7.6% of all drivers observed in a 2016 study displayed distracted driving as a result of electronic device use, compared to 5.4% in 2015. The change marks a 2.2% increase. (CA Statewide Observational Survey of Cell Phone & Texting Use by Drivers)
• In a 2016 survey, 16-24-year-olds demonstrated a significantly higher rate of manipulating a hand-held device while driving (6.5%) in comparison to other age groups. (CA Statewide Observational Survey of Cell Phone & Texting Use by Drivers)
• Respondents from a 2015 California Traffic Survey reported "Texting While Driving" as the most serious distraction on roadways. (California Traffic Safety Survey)
• In 2015, 59.6% of California drivers surveyed stated that they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver talking or texting. (California Traffic Safety Survey)
• It is illegal to hold and use a cell phone while texting, calling or using the apps while driving. It must be affixed to the vehicle, may be operated in hands free mode using voice activation, or used with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger. (California Vehicle Code)
• Currently, 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.
• In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
• In 2014, ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes. (NHTSA)
• At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. (NOPUS)
• 10% of fatal crashes, 18% of injury crashes, and 16% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes. (NHTSA)
• According to a 2015 State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company online survey, distracted driving behaviors that continued to notably increase since 2014 included using a hands-free device to talk on a cellphone, listening to and programming a navigation system/GPS and accessing the Internet. (State Farm)
• The percentage of drivers holding cell phones to their ears while driving decreased from 4.3 percent in 2014 to 3.8 percent in 2015, while the percentage of drivers visibly manipulating handheld devices while driving remained constant at 2.2 percent. The percentage of drivers text messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2015. (NHTSA)
• Distracted driving doesn’t just affect vehicle occupants. Distracted drivers were involved in the deaths of 520 nonoccupants during 2014. (NHTSA)
Distracted Driving Quick Facts
• Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
• Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. These include texting, talking on a cell phone, grooming, using a navigation system, reading (including maps), and adjusting a radio, CD or MP3 player – just to name a few.
• Sending or receiving a text may be quick, but texting is the most alarming distraction because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously.
• The youngest and most inexperienced drivers are most at risk of distracted driving dangers, with 16% of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers under 20.
• At any given moment during daylight hours, over 660,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
• 73% of drivers 18 to 20 years old admit to texting while driving. (NHTSA)
• The best way to put an end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses.