Multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the Inland Empire will be doubling up efforts on Friday to deter motorists from using their mobile phones in a way that puts themselves and other drivers at risk.
The all-out enforcement campaign will be the final one conducted as part of "Distracted Driving Awareness Month," which the California Highway Patrol, Murrieta Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff's Department are actively observing in partnership with the California Office of Traffic Safety and Impact Teen Drivers.
According to preliminary CHP data, during 2017, close to 22,000 wrecks were the result of distracted driving. That figure, however, represents a 30 percent drop compared to 2007, when over 33,000 accidents occurred due to a motorist's inattention, the CHP said.
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Officials credited the decline to two laws passed by the Legislature in 2008 that established penalties for drivers caught texting while driving or using mobile phones without hands-free devices.
"California's distracted driving laws have been saving lives for a decade now," said former state Sen. Joe Simitian, who authored the legislation. "However, there's more work to be done. Public education, meaningful penalties and rigorous enforcement are all essential. Most importantly, all of us who are out on the road have to remember -- it can wait."
The CHP last year issued roughly 97,000 citations for alleged violations of the hand-held cell phone law. In 2009, the first full year in which the law was in effect, 148,000 citations were issued, according to the agency.
Authorities noted that teen drivers are among the worst offenders.
CHP officers from the Riverside, Beaumont, Blythe, Indio and Temecula stations, along with sheriff's deputies in the Coachella Valley and Murrieta police officers, will be looking to snare scofflaws as part of the crackdown on distracted drivers.
An initial enforcement deployment occurred on April 5.