With April designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Morgan Hill Police Department is urging motorists to “silence the distraction” for traffic safety.

Throughout the month of April, local police will join departments from all over the state in cracking down on drivers who violate California’s hands-free cell phone law. On April 4 and April 19, Morgan Hill police will post extra officers on patrol looking specifically for drivers on their phones, according to a press release from Morgan Hill Police Department.

In 2018, MHPD officers issued 648 citations to drivers who were texting, calling or performing other functions on their cellular phones, police said.

According to data from the California Highway Patrol, in 2017 66 people died and more than 6,500 were injured statewide in distracted driving related crashes.

Under the updated cell phone law that went into effect in 2017, drivers are prohibited from having a phone in their hand for any reason, and can only use the phone in a hands-free manner, police said. The phones must be mounted on the dashboard, windshield or center console, and can only be touched one time with the swipe or tap of a finger to activate or deactivate a function. First-time offenders of this law face a fine up to $162.

“Cell phones remain one of the top distractions for drivers,” Morgan Hill Police Traffic Sgt. Ray Ramos said. “Like any bad habit, it can be hard to break, but this habit can have life-altering consequences.”

The press release adds, “If you need to make a call or text someone, pull over and park at a safe location. Struggling to stay off the phone while driving? Put your phone in a place you can’t reach, like the backseat or trunk.”

Funding for the local distracted driving enforcement operation is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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