Palo Alto police will be extra vigilant this month in citing drivers who are texting or using hand-held phones behind the wheel as part of a nationwide "Distracted Driving Awareness" campaign.
Officers will enforce a zero-tolerance policy during the campaign, which ends April 30, and drivers cited will have to pay a minimum of $159, according to a Palo Alto Police Department press release.
"We take the issue of distracted driving very seriously," Palo Alto police Chief Dennis Burns said. "Cell phone use and texting while driving is such a serious concern that we are putting officers on the road to enforce zero tolerance; is that text message or cell phone call really worth $159?"
Burns said the department is bolstering enforcement on the streets throughout April. Texting while driving can delay a driver's reaction time equivalent to a driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, according to the release.
A hand-held devise user is four times as likely to be involved in a car crash and the probability increases with inexperienced drivers under the age of 20, the release said.
Police urge drivers to avoid using the phone while driving.
"Studies show that there is no difference in the risks between hands-free and hand-held cell phone conversations, both of which can result in 'inattention blindness,' which occurs when the brain isn't seeing what is clearly visible because the drivers' focus is on the phone conversation and not on the road," the release said.