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Turlock officers will focus on distracted drivers
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The drivers might be distracted, but the Turlock Police Department certainly won’t be.

The police department is partnering with the Office of Traffic Safety and other area agencies for enforcement efforts aimed at stopping some bad driving habits as part of the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.

“Law enforcement would rather see everyone off their cell phones than hand out a lot of tickets,” said Rhonda Craft, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “Take care of calling, texting, setting your GPS and everything else before you hit the street.”

Turlock will join other law enforcement agencies throughout the state to provide educational experiences as well as zero tolerance enforcement efforts to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws.

“The goal is to gain voluntary compliance by drivers, but sometimes citations are necessary for motorists to better understand the importance of driving distraction free,” said Turlock Police spokesman Sgt. Neil Cervenka.

Turlock is deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources on weekdays during the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in city locations with higher numbers of traffic collisions. Violators will be stopped and cited with fines set at $162 for first time offenders. This campaign is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 injured in motor vehicle collisions involving distracted drivers in 2015. That is a 9 percent increase in fatalities as compared to the previous year.

State legislators tried to help curb the growing rates by passing Assembly Bill 1785, which requires all drivers in California to keep their cell phone out of their hands while operating a motor vehicle. Under the new law, a driver may activate or deactivate a feature or function of the cell phone or wireless communication device by swiping or tapping its screen only if it is properly mounted or not being held in a driver’s hand.

The Office of Traffic Safety will begin a new public awareness campaign throughout the state in April emphasizing how the new law makes virtually all hand-held cell phone activity illegal – talking, texting, and using apps. The campaign aims to end distracted driving through education and raise awareness about the associated dangers. The goal is to change motorist behaviors and save lives, not just in the month of April but year-round.