The California Highway Patrol is cracking down on Mercedians who are using cell phones and texting while driving during a "Zero Tolerance" campaign beginning Tuesday and Wednesday. The patrol is partnering with Allied Law Enforcement Agencies for the first time throughout the Central Valley, according to Officer Luis Lara.
The campaign is designed to deter people from talking and texting on their cell phones while driving.
There has been an "increase of collisions occurring because of distracted driving and this is going to be the first campaign since the laws went into effect," Lara said.
The hand-held wireless telephone law, or no talking on a cell phone while driving, took effect in California in 2008. Californians are allowed to use a hands-free device to talk while driving. The no texting law took effect the following year in January.
He said in 2008, there were 179 tickets issued for driving while talking on a cell phone out of the Merced highway patrol office. In 2009, that figure jumped to 716 tickets.
Last year, the highway patrol Central Division, which encompasses all of the Central Valley, issued 8,537 tickets to motorists, he said.
Merced CHP has reported 13 collisions last year involving cell phone use, he said.
"It's a common occurrence seeing people on their cell phones," Lara said. "We are trying to encourage them not to be on their cell phones." He stressed the policy will be enforced more rigorously from now on.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209)385-2477 or email@example.com.