Stephanie Urbina put her cellphone on speaker while driving and talking to her friend one night several weeks ago in Fontana.

When she spotted a Fontana police officer, she tried to hide the phone, but it was too late. The police lights flashed, and she had to pull over.

"I was just so bummed out," the 19-year-old Fontana woman said. "It wasn't worth it."

Urbina is part of an age group the state says has doubled its cellphone use while driving between 2011 and 2012.

The California Office of Traffic Safety released results this month of several studies on distracted driving.

Cellphone use by drivers jumped from 7.3 percent in 2011 to 10.8 percent this year.

A study released this month showed that 46 percent of college students feel they can drive safely while talking on a cell phone.
A study released this month showed that 46 percent of college students feel they can drive safely while talking on a cell phone. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)
For drivers between 16 and 25 years old, the jump was from 9 percent to 18 percent.

And a study by UC Diego, which included a survey of 5,000 college students, showed that 46 percent felt they were capable of talking on a cellphone while driving.

Urbina, a student at Cal State San Bernardino, said the call she was ticketed for was not an emergency. And she realizes that using a phone while driving is dangerous. She once found herself drifting into another lane while sending a text message.

CSUSB student Joshue Chahin, 20, of Rialto says he shakes his head when he sees other students talking on the phone while driving. But he admits he has also used a cellphone several times while behind the wheel.

"I never thought it was safe to do it," he said. "If I see a family member doing it, I tell them, `Stop, I'll talk for you."'

Here's the good news:

Researchers saw 12.5 percent of San Bernardino County drivers using cellphones while driving in late March and early April. That's a decrease of 0.3 percent from 2011.

The number of drivers spotted text-messaging or manipulating a handheld device in other ways has also decreased, from 5.9 percent in 2011 to 3.5 percent in 2012.

"Overall, San Bernardino County dropped a little bit," said Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the Office of Traffic Safety.

The bad news is the county's use remains higher than the state average in both areas, Cochran said.

Law enforcement is trying to do something about it with special patrols.

Several Inland Empire law enforcement agencies conducted patrols in April that focused on cellphone use while driving.

San Bernardino police wrote 154 tickets, including 15 for text-messaging. Pomona police wrote 62 tickets, 16 of which were for sending a text message while driving.

"We had an enforcement campaign that month in addition to the regular enforcement that goes on," Cochran said. Reach Melissa via email or call her at 909-386-3878.

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