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Traffic op grabs attention of distracted, speeding drivers
80 citations issued in a little over three hours
tpd op.jpg

The Turlock Police Department ended Distracted Driving Awareness month in April with an operation that certainly garnered the attention of some motorists in Turlock.

The Turlock Police Department partnered with the Modesto and Ceres police departments, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol for an operation targeting distracted drivers on Tuesday morning. The operation was in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. in various parts of Turlock.

The result of the operation was 80 citations, according to the police department. The highest number of citations were for speeding, followed closely by people using their cell phones.

“Cell phones are working against us in the fight against distracted driving,” California Office of Traffic Safety Director Rhonda Craft said. “The hope is that a combination of education and enforcement will drive people to change bad behaviors for the better.” According to preliminary data from the CHP, 66 people were killed and more than 6,500 injured in 2017 from distracted driving related crashes. In 2018, the CHP issued more than 109,000 citations for violations of the hands-free cell phone laws.

A 2018 observational study by the OTS on driver cell phone use found that approximately 4.5 percent of drivers were seen using a cell phone, a nearly 27 percent increase from 2017, but down from 2016, when 7.6 percent of drivers were observed using a cell phone. “Clearly, there’s more work to be done to curb distracted driving,” Craft said. “The observational survey gives us an idea on where we stand and that we still have our work cut out for us.”

One group more likely to be distracted by a cell phone while driving are teenagers, which is one reason why the Impact Teen Drivers organization was founded. Impact Teen Drivers was organized for the purpose of providing awareness and education to teenagers, their parents, and community members about all facets of responsible driving, with the goal of reducing the number of injuries and deaths suffered by teens as a result of distracted driving and poor decision making. The organization was founded by Jon Hamm, CEO for the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, in response to the high frequency of crashes involving teens to which CHP officers respond.

 “Each year, we could fill eight large yellow school buses with the number of teens we lose to preventable car crashes in California alone,” Impact Teen Drivers Executive Director Dr. Kelly Browning said.

Distracted driving laws have been on the books since 2008. Law enforcement wants to remind drivers that under the 2017 hands-free cell phone law, drivers are not allowed to hold a wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device while driving a motor vehicle.