Police crackdown on distracted driving in San Mateo County

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Drivers in a couple of San Mateo County communities are being warned of engaging in distracted driving.

Traffic officers from San Mateo, Burlingame, South San Francisco, Pacifica and Redwood City are teaming up. Their eyes are focused on drivers not focused on the road.

"We usually try to specialize or pay attention to areas where that particular city might have high accidents," said Sgt. Danny Gill, with the South San Francisco police department.

Tuesday's crackdown is in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, with more Bay Area cities to come.

Officers says the most common type of distracting driving they see is people looking down at their phones to text at red lights. That is a violation and one that will cost you.

Sergeant Gill says he sees lots of texting at red lights. "Immediately, you see people's heads go down. You don't have to be a cop to see it," he said.

A distracted driving citation is around $160 not including court fees. With each citation the cost goes up.

And while some drivers make a point of taking notice when patrol officers are around, Sgt. Gil says cops are on the lookout when you least expect it.

"Especially the motorcycle officers because they have the advantage to see the drivers driving before the drivers can see them," he said.

In a national survey, 48 percent of drivers say they answer their cell phones while driving and 58 percent say they continue to drive after answering the call.

Officers says texting while driving is one of the most dangerous distraction because when you look down, you're combining three distractions: visual, manual and cognitive.

A lot of people use hands free devices but that, too, can be an issue because of what experts call "inattention blindness." That's when individuals fail to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.

Sergeant Dan Smith with Redwood City police says officers want to educate drivers to eliminate deadly accidents caused by distracted driving.

"It's a behavior that has to be changed. We did it with drunk driving, seatbelt violations and are hoping eventually it will be done with distracted driving," he said.

During Tuesday's crackdown officers say they are taking a zero tolerance approach, hoping ot make streets safer for drivers. The operation runs from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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