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The San Luis Obispo Police Department is adding patrol officers who will look for distracted drivers violating California’s hands-free cell phone law beginning Feb. 24, according to a SLOPD press release.

The state law prohibits drivers from talking, texting or using an app on a phone or electronic communications device while driving.

Drivers who violate the law are subject to a $157 fine for their first offense. If a second violation occurs within 18 months of the first violation, the driver is fined between $177 and $207. Second violations also add points to the person’s driving record, which can increase insurance premiums. 

City police currently enforce this law through their daily patrols, but will have additional patrol officers stationed throughout San Luis Obispo. The funding for this initiative comes from a California Office of Traffic Safety grant, through the National Highway Safety Administration. 

SLOPD has issued 64 citations for distracted driving since Jan. 1, according to traffic sergeant Jeff Booth.

Officers will look primarily for drivers using cell phones, but distracted driving also includes “eating, grooming, talking to passengers, using GPS, adjusting the radio, taking off a jacket, reaching for an object on the floor or navigating a vehicle’s in-dash touchscreen,” according to the press release. 

SLOPD recommends drivers silence their cell phones or place them out of reach before driving. The department also asks drivers to pull over to a safe parking spot if they need to make a phone call or put directions into a phone or GPS.

“Distracted driving is a serious issue, but one that can be easily solved simply by putting the phone down,” Booth said in the press release. “That text, phone call, email or social media post can wait.”

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