Driving distractions not all from cell phones

Local business owners say they use GPS safely on deliveries
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local law enforcement is spreading the word that more than just cell phones can cause distracted driving. “Anything that you are doing above and beyond driving is taking away from your attention to driving, and an accident can happen in a split second,” said Capt. John Ruffcorn, of the Auburn Police Department. “Even if you are paying attention, there is a possibility you could still get in an accident, but by having your hands free it’s helping to avoid or mitigating that factor.” Officer David Martinez, spokesman for the Newcastle California Highway Patrol Office, said if drivers are holding items like a GPS or iPod, they could be in violation of the law. “If you are using an electronic device, and you are not utilizing it hands-free, it’s the same thing (as a cell phone),” Martinez said. “If we see an iPod or a cell phone in your hand, then you are in violation. A lot of motorists have the GPS (devices) that are mounted on the left side of the dash board, which is legal.” Martinez said drivers who are paying attention to the road, but glance quickly at their GPS to make sure they are going in the right direction, would not be considered distracted drivers. “I think the main thing is if they are trying to multitask,” he said. “They are trying to hold a conversation, they are trying to send someone a message, they are trying to check their e-mails, and they are doing this while trying to control a 70,000-pound vehicle.” If an officer sees a driver picking up an MP3 player to quickly skip to the next song or adjust the volume, it could be cause for pulling him or her over, Martinez said. “I think at the very least we would make an enforcement stop, and at that point take the appropriate enforcement action,” he said. “They would at least be stopped and talked to so we could find out exactly what was going on in the vehicle.” Martinez said it’s also not just electronics that could violate a driving law, although other actions such as reading a newspaper and shaving could fall under a separate vehicle code violation. “It’s still illegal, and they could still be stopped and cited for it,” he said. Whereas things like driving under the influence used to be the main killers for teenage drivers, that is no longer the case, Martinez said. “Now distracted driving is taking over,” he said. Martinez said the ideal situation would be for drivers not to use or hold anything while traveling and just focus on driving. Ruffcorn said preventing distracted driving on an individual basis should be every driver’s goal. “This is a concern for law enforcement, and it should be a concern for all drivers,” he said. “Having your focus somewhere else when you are driving a vehicle at any speed can be dangerous. You just never know when someone is going to walk out into traffic or another car is going to pull out in traffic. The chances of you being able to avoid something like that, it really helps to have your focus (on the road).” Amanda Lutton, owner of California Catering in Auburn, said she does use GPS while she drives, but she makes sure she is not the one looking at or holding it. “I’m usually the only (driver) making a delivery, and I always have another person with me,” Lutton said. “And if we don’t know where we are going, we set the GPS address from our contract before we leave the kitchen, and the passenger is kind of holding onto the device as I’m driving. So, we do use GPS, but I don’t have it talking to me or fiddle with it … while I’m driving.” Mary Eddenfield, owner of Penguin Catering in Auburn, said she lets her GPS talk to her, but only glances at it when she really needs to. “Not until I get where I’m going to turn, when I have slowed down to make sure I have turned correctly,” Eddenfield said. “That is the only time I look at it. Other than that I let it talk to me.” Reach Bridget Jones at