Screen shot courtesy of Caltrans via YouTube.

Screen shot courtesy of Caltrans via YouTube.

A newly released study indicates a 39-percent increase in California motorists using a cell phone while driving, compared to last year's research numbers.

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) released the study on July 14.

OTS and the University of California, Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center conducted the research, observing and tracking the motorist behavior. This year, 9.2 percent of drivers were spotted using a cell phone while driving, up from 6.6 percent of drivers in 2014. The highest level recorded since research began was 10.8 percent of motorists using a cell phone in 2012.

“It’s shocking that nearly 10 percent of motorists were observed using their cell phones while driving a motor vehicle, a potentially lethal combination,” said OTS Director Ronda Craft. “We will continue our aggressive public outreach campaign and our partnership with law enforcement to educate the public about the dangers of those who drive distracted and put the lives of others at risk.”

To access the full report, click here.

During April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, approximately 250 law enforcement agencies across California ticketed more than 46,000 drivers using a cell phone while driving. That number is roughly double the number of tickets issued during the average month. Although there were fewer citations for handheld talking on cell phones, law enforcement wrote 35 percent more tickets for texting-while-driving compared to 2014.

“Discouraging drivers from operating a vehicle while distracted is a challenge that law enforcement is faced with year-round,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “By raising awareness through education and enforcement, we are working toward changing the dangerous behavior of using a cell phone while driving – and the purpose is to save lives.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention and approximately 3,000 people were killed nationwide last year in collisions involving a distracted driver. Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – enough time to travel the length of a football field, essentially driving blindfolded for 120 yards.

A public awareness campaign, “Silence the Distraction,” accompanied April’s law enforcement effort. A tour of 11 community college campuses in California spread the message of traffic safety with interactive games, information booths, and student involvement.

OTS also sponsors TV commercials depicting how distracting text messages can make it seem like the car is full of demanding people screaming for a driver’s attention. The state’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, is also supporting the public outreach efforts with changeable message signs warning about the dangers of texting or talking while driving.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet