By Sam Stanton
Law enforcement agencies in the Sacramento area will launch a new crackdown that targets drivers who are using hand-held cell phones to make calls or text over the next two weeks.
The effort begins Monday and runs through March 10, according to the Sacramento Police Department, which said it is working with three dozen area agencies to find drivers using their handheld devices and issue tickets to them during a series of saturation patrols.
"The effort is a special federally funded pilot program using the region to test tactics that may be employed nationally in the future," the department said in an announcement issued today.
Officials in Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and West Sacramento will join Sacramento officers in the saturation patrols in what the department said is the second of many planned crackdowns to take place over the next year.
The effort is aimed at reducing the number of distracted drivers on the road, and the department cited California Department of Motor Vehicles statistics showing the problem is growing in scope.
In 2010, the DMV reported 361,260 convictions for using a handheld cell phone while driving. That number increased to 460,487 in 2011, despite the hefty fines associated with the practice.
First-time violators face a minimum fine of $159, while a second offense can result in a $279 fine.
Nationally, officials estimate there were 416,000 people injured and 3,092 killed in 2010 from crashes involving a distracted driver, Sacramento police said.