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Distracted driving campaign cracks down on valley motorists

Law enforcement crackdown on distracted drivers

LA QUINTA, Cali. -  Next time you reach for your phone in the car, you might want to think again.

For the entire month of April, law enforcement agencies in the valley are cracking down on distracted driving.

Whether they admit it or not, almost everyone uses a phone at some point while driving.

Pam Michelle is visiting the valley from Los Angeles, she tells us, "I do it when I'm at a stop light or when I'm pulled over to the curb. But, I don't do it while I'm actually driving."

But, it's not just texting or having a conversation that worries law enforcement, they're cracking down to stop all kinds of distracted driving.

Officer Ramon Perez of the California Highway Patrol was nice enough to let us ride along to experience the crackdown. He says, "Normally what people associate with distracted driving is cell phone violations. But were looking for all sorts of distracted driving not just cell phone violations. That could be anything from people reading newspapers to doing their hair while they're driving."

All April long, law officers have a zero tolerance policy, and will ticket distracted drivers.

Officer Perez surprises his first distracted driver of the day, and gets an earful after his introduction, "Hello Ma'am, I pulled you over for using your cell phone while driving."

Even when you're stopped at a traffic light, the law says you need to be hands free.

Perez explains, "If you have a bona fide emergency, you need to call emergency services, then definitely use your cell phone if you need to but, otherwise you need a hands free device to use your cell phone."

For drivers under 18, using the phone with a hands free device is still against the law.

Why the decision to crack down?

More than 3300 people died in 2011 because of distracted driving, and the number keep rising.

And, the fines will cost you.

"The base fine for those violations is 20 dollars for the first time and 50 dollars for the second and subsequent offenses," Perez says. "However, after fees are added by the court, the first offense is normally well over 100 dollars."

Amber Frey is a La Quinta resident who uses a headset, but she thinks the fees are too low. "I think it should be higher," Frey says. "I think most people just get away with it because they'll just pay the fine but if it's higher I think less people will do it."

Just be sure to lose the distractions so you won't have to forfeit any hard earned cash.

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