SANTA MONICA—The month of April is Distracted Driver Awareness and the Santa Monica Police Department in collaboration with various law enforcement agencies and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is aiming to discourage distracted driving behind the wheel.

According to a press release Canyon News received from Lt. Saul Rodriguez of the SMPD, drivers are using their cell phones less often while driving; 10 years after “hands-free” became the law in the state of California.

Officers will focus on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws, with a goal to heighten voluntary compliance by drivers, but citations will be issued to motorists not complying with the law to prevent potential accidents.

Friday, April 13 is designated as a statewide enforcement date where law enforcement agencies will step up distracted driving enforcement activities. The California Department of Transportation will utilize distracted driving messages on the changeable message signs on freeways during the month.

Traffic officers have issued hundreds of thousands of citations in the past three years to those texting or calling on a hand-held cell phone. Recent legislation makes it illegal to operate a smartphone or smartphone apps will driving. Preliminary 2017 data shows nearly 22,000 drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions in California, a decline from the more than 33,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in 2007, the last full year before the hands-free law went into effect.

SMPD reminds drivers of the following Safety Tips:

-If you receive a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location, but ‘never’ on a freeway. Once you are safely off the road, it is safe to text.

-Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.

-Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.

-Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put the cell phone in the trunk or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your final destination.

In April, the SMPD will be deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources at 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.