It’s not illegal to eat a Big Mac while driving, but it is illegal if you become dangerous while chomping away. And you could get ticketed.

Various local police agencies are joining the CHP and police across the state and nation in stepping up enforcement on distracted driving throughout April.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat, spokesman for the Sonoma County office, said it’s not just drivers texting or using cellphones that get distracted. A variety of legal activities could quickly become illegal if you become distracted and start committing traffic violations, such as speeding, tailgating or cutting someone off. It’s easy to lose focus on your driving, he warned.

He said an officer recently ticketed a man who was reading the San Francisco Chronicle while driving in commute traffic for unsafe speed. The man protested and took his case to court, but the judge ruled that the safe speed for reading a newspaper while driving is zero mph. Pay up. (Or better yet, get The Press Democrat at home.)

“Eating a sandwich is not going to get you a ticket, but it will if you’re tailgating,” Sloat said.

As part of the extra enforcement, Sloat said the CHP will be using grant money from the state Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Safety Administration to pay for extra officers to be out on the county’s roads in April, specifically looking for distracted drivers. He said the number of shifts devoted to the enforcement had yet to be decided.

Sloat said officers also will be visiting schools, senior centers, community centers and other community organizations to give presentations on the dangers of distracted driving. If your group is interested, call Sloat at the Rohnert Park office at 588-1400.

Among other local agencies participating in the enforcement are the Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Sonoma State University police departments.


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