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Jorene Ypanto Nicolas pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on manslaughter charges Monday despite law enforcement's contention the San Diego 29-year-old's distracted driving caused the death of 23-year-old Deanna Mauer. Inattentive motoring--which can include eating, texting or just not paying attention to the road while driving--has become such a problem that the Irvine Police Department is dedicating every first Thursday of the month to combating it--starting today.
In addition to their normal patrol duties, officers will be keeping an especially watchful eye out for distracted drivers. During a Jan. 5 test run, traffic cops discovered that by focusing just one shift to looking for signs of the dangerous behavior, they issued 182 citations, of which 136 related to distracted driving.
Irvine Police hope announcing the enforcement in advance will help curtail the practice, as will citing National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data that shows drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to be involved in an injury related collision. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving.
Even without a subsequent tragedy, distracted driving can be costly. The fine for first time texting or use of a cell phone while driving is $159, with subsequent tickets costing $279.