April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Turlock Police Department and the California Highway Patrol encourage drivers to keep their focus on the road.
Throughout the month of April, the Turlock Police Department will have additional officers on patrol specifically looking for drivers who violate the state’s hands-free cell phone law.
“When you are driving, give the phone a rest,” said Turlock Police Lt. Steve Rodrigues. “A driver’s number one focus should be on the road. Anything that distracts you from the task of driving, especially a phone, puts yourself and others at risk.”
According to the 2020 California Statewide Public Opinion Survey, more than 75% of surveyed drivers listed “distracted driving because of texting” as their biggest safety concern.
“Not driving distracted is a simple but significant behavior change. The goal is to increase compliance with the hands-free cell phone law and keep people safe,” said Turlock Police Sgt. David Hall.
The California Highway Patrol will be undertaking a similar operation in April on the highways and roads in their jurisdiction.
The CHP is partnering with the California Office of Traffic Safety and Impact Teen Drivers to drive down the number of crashes from distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019 nationwide. That same year in California, there were at least 18,698 crashes from distracted driving that resulted in 108 deaths and more than 13,500 injuries.
“Driving safely requires your full attention,” CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray said. “Distractions put you and others on the road at risk. Together, with our traffic safety partners, enforcement, and the cooperation of the motoring public, we can save lives and eliminate this dangerous behavior on California’s roadways.”
Distractions are not limited to cellular phones, other electronics, children, pets, and eating or drinking while driving can also divert attention and result in a crash.
Breaking distracted driving laws becomes more serious this year. Beginning July 1, a violation for using a handheld cellular phone or texting while driving will result in a fine and also add a point to the driver’s record for each violation occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.
“Distracted driving is a serious issue that is 100 percent preventable,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “That text, phone call, or social post is never more important than the task of driving.”
As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the first week of April is California Teen Safe Driving Week. Throughout the week, CHP and ITD will place an increased emphasis on informing California’s newest drivers about the dangers and consequences of reckless and distracted driving.
“Parents, your kids have been watching you drive since they were in a forward-facing car seat,” Kelly Browning, Ph.D., executive director of ITD, said. “Your driving habits will become their driving habits – be the driver you want your kids to be.”
Under current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers under 18-years old are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free.
If you need to make a call or send a text, pull over and park at a safe location. Drivers should silence their phones or put the phone out of reach, such as the glove box or trunk.
Funding for the Turlock program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.