The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) made observant driving the top priority of motorists Tuesday afternoon on Eagle Canyon Drive in Sparks by holding a Distracted Driving and ‘Click It or Ticket’ Demonstration. Several sheriff’s officers made drivers aware of the dangers of distracted driving not only on Eagle Canyon Drive, but everywhere.
“This stretch of Eagle Canyon (Drive) has everything to offer drivers and this is a place where you have to be very aware of your surroundings and eliminate all distractions,” Deputy Armando Avina, public information officer for the WCSO, said. “The idea behind this demonstration is to potentially save the lives of the people we stop today.”
Avina said patrol units were looking for drivers talking or texting on their cell phones, which was prohibited by law as of Jan. 1, 2012, and also looking for motorists not wearing seat belts. Avina said cell phone use has become so common that driving no longer takes precedence when vying for attention.
“Cell phones can do so much these days that they have become a part of basically everybody’s lifestyle. When you hear an alert go off on your phone it is engrained in your mind to answer it immediately,” he said. “Drivers become so involved in conversations that are unimportant that they are not paying attention in an environment where things are constantly changing.”
Avina said the Eagle Canyon area was an easy choice because of the changing speeds and surroundings, but also for the diversity of drivers. He said a driver’s age and the form of cell phone use are equally insignificant when it comes to distractions.
“If you have a license to drive and you have a cell phone that rings or an alarm goes off on it, you are susceptible to checking to see what it is. It is not about the age group. It is about how people depend on that cell phone to answer that email, text or check the internet while they drive,” Avina said. “There are people who are completely oblivious to their surroundings once that cell phone gets put to their ear. Even in a Bluetooth situation, it is possible that the conversation is what is distracting, not the communication device.”
Avina said drivers have become aware of the cell phone use laws and have learned to conceal their phones when they spot an oncoming officer. He said getting a ticket should be the least of a driver’s worries, especially since the fine is only $50 for a first offense.
“The worst thing that could happen is that people see us and quickly stop texting or talking on the phone, and as soon as they pass and they don’t see us anywhere near, that’s when they pick it up and continue a conversation,” he said. “We don’t want that to happen. We are out here to make sure people understand the risks involved, not so much to scratch somebody a ticket because that is the least we can do. A cell phone should not be something you put before your future.”
Avina said his units were “highly visible” on Eagle Canyon Drive on Tuesday and that similar operations for distracted or impaired driving happen continuously throughout the county. Given the recent number of vehicle-pedestrian accidents in the county, Avina said the awareness operations serve to help those “preventable accidents.”
“We want the public to understand that we are not just out here to ticket, we are out here to try to change your lifestyle and make you aware of the risks involved,” he said. “Driving impaired can be prevented. The only thing that should matter to a driver is being aware of your surroundings and controlling the vehicle.”
For more information on distracted driving or the Click It or Ticket campaign, visit www.washoesherrif.com.