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Law Enforcement Will Be Looking For Texting And Driving

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

According to a California Traffic Safety Survey, nearly two-thirds of people were hit or nearly hit last year by someone driving while texting or talking on a cell phone.

To show how distracted driving affects safety, the California Highway Patrol opened the driving portion of its academy to news reporters for a demonstration. 

During a demonstration Monday, officials showed how destructive distracted driving can be. One cardboard cutout of a jogger and a half dozen road cones are flattened by a car going 35 miles an hour. The driver is looking at a phone on his lap.

Chris Cochran with the California Office of Traffic Safety says distractions can affect your driving in three ways.

"If your hand is off the wheel, that's one part of it. If your eyes are off the road, that's a gigantic part of the texting problem," says Cochran. "But, the third part is if your brain is off of the task of driving. Up to 37 percent of your brain activity needed for driving has been pushed over to the task of texting or talking."

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Cochran's in the passenger seat as Capital Public Radio's Bob Moffitt takes a turn on the course. He looks at the steering wheel on his first pass through the course -- 200 yards at 35 mph -- able to see a little of the road in his peripheral vision.

"Look down, look down, look down you made it," says Cochran.

And then a second time he looks at a phone on his lap.

"You took out mother and child," says Cochran.

CHP's Fran Clader says her department is one of 200 agencies that will look for distracted drivers Tuesday and two other days this month.

"Here it's cones and cutouts. But, on the roadway these cones and placards could be another car or a person on the roadway.  Instead of picking up cones here, we could be talking about injuries and deaths.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says 3,300 people were killed and 421,000 people were injured in the United States in 2012 in crashes where drivers were distracted. 

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