Police Rev Up Enforcement Measures Against Distracted Drivers in Pasadena

Extra traffic enforcement officers are on duty for the day to clamp down on people using mobile phones and texting while behind the wheel.

The mission for these Pasadena police officers started before dawn: to crack down on distracted drivers.

Moments later longtime Officer Craig Blumenthal said he spotted one typing on his phone:

"You get a lot of excuses ... 'I was just picking up the phone to tell them I couldn't talk,'" he said.

He and other officers say distracted drivers are as big a problem as ever.

The officers see the consequences:

"The minute you take your eyes off the road, something pops out in front of you and you don't have that time to react," Blumenthal said.

Added Officer Tony Karg: "Driving while texting causes collisions. People are killed."

During a police ride along Friday, police spotted a number of people with phones to their ears, including one driver who said she was on her way to work and "got distracted, I guess."

Another driver admitted he was texting.

While some admit it, police also see people who make excuses or try to quickly toss their phones. That doesn't work.

"People try to be sly," Karg said. "That causes us to focus in on someone even more."

Wrecks involving distracted drivers killed more than 3,000 people and injured close to a half a million as recently as 2012, officials said.

Pasadena police got a state grant to put more officers out on Friday to help break drivers' bad habits.

"We're not trying to penalize people," Karg said. "We're trying to change their behavior to stop what they've been doing out here."

While some got warnings, fines and court fees can run hundreds of dollars.

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