New campaign aims to get 'zombie' drivers off the road


The second annual National Distracted Driving Awareness Month kicked off Sunday and the California Highway Patrol and the Office of Traffic Safety is launching an "It's Not Worth It!" campaign to get California drivers to put down their cell phones.

To hit that point home, zombies are being used in public service announcements because drivers really are like a zombie when driving and talking or texting on a handheld.

"People are in a hurry nowadays. And with technology, people try and get multiple things done at one time, and it's very hard for them to put down the phone," said CHP Officer Arnold Hardy.

A study by Carnegie Mellon University found the act of talking on a cell phone can reduce more than 35 percent of the brain activity needed for driving.

Chris Murphy from California's Office of Traffic Safety said: "The message is one-third of your brain is not there because you're doing that on your phone while you're driving, you really become a zombie. There's inattention blindness that you don't even know what you're not seeing."

Law enforcement will be aggressively combing highways and streets for drivers who refuse to go hands-free. Last year during a similar month-long campaign, they caught 52,000 people across the state. They caugh 475,000 for all of 2011.

When you add in local and court fees, citations can run into hundreds of dollars.

Jeff Kinnison was pulled over not far from where the campaign kicked off for being on his iPhone. The hand-held ban has been law in California since 2008 and is in effect all year.

"I had just finished a phone call and actually was hanging up. I was not texting," he said. "I realize I shouldn't have done that. And I realize that I had both earphones in."

In looking at state crash records two years before and two years after the hand-held ban went into effect, UC Berkeley found overall traffic deaths went down 22 percent and hand-held cell phone driver deaths fell 47 percent.

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