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Grants to help Turlock police keep people safe on roads

The Turlock Police Department has been awarded two grants, both with the aim of keeping people safe on local roads.

The department got a $60,500 grant to reduce deaths and injuries on City of Turlock roads, and another grant to fund efforts to keep people from using their phones while driving. Both grants come from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“These are trying times, and now more than ever, it is important that we are at the forefront of traffic safety,” said Turlock Police Acting Capt. James Silveira. “This funding allows us to educate and enhance the safety of all residents.”

The $60,500 grant will fund a variety of traffic safety programs, including:

• Patrols with emphasis on alcohol and drug impaired driving prevention.

• Patrols with emphasis on awareness and education of California’s hands free cell phone law.

• Patrols with emphasis on education of traffic rights for bicyclists and pedestrians.

• Patrols with emphasis on awareness and education of primary causes of crashes: excess speed, failure to yield, failure to stop at stop signs/signals and improper turning/lane changes.

• Officer training and/or recertification.

“Through education and behavior changes, we hope to create an environment that is safe and equitable for all road users in our community,” said Interim Police Chief Miguel Pacheco.

The one-year grant is for the 2021 federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021.

The second grant is to support the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s U Drive. U Text. U Pay. high-visibility enforcement campaign. The Turlock Police Department will use the funds to help enforce and educate the public on California’s hands-free cell phone law.

“People may think they can use their phone and drive at the same time safely, but it is far from safe and also illegal,” said Lt. Steve Rodrigues. “If you are on your phone, you are putting yourself and others on the road at risk.”

Last year, the CHP issued nearly 20,000 tickets during the month of April alone, to drivers who were on their cell phone.

According to an online survey conducted this year by the OTS, University of California, Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, and Ewald and Wasserman Research Consultants, 75.1% of surveyed drivers listed “distracted driving because of texting” as their biggest safety concern.

“We want drivers to change bad behaviors like distracted driving,” said Silveira. “When there are no distractions, our roads are much safer.”

Distracted driving laws have been in effect since 2008. Under the 2017 hands-free cell phone law, drivers are not allowed to hold a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel. First-time offenders face a $157 fine.

If you need to make a call or text someone, pull over and park at a safe location. Drivers are encouraged to silence their phones before starting the car, or placing the phone somewhere they can’t reach it, such as the glove box or trunk.