Union Democrat staff

Officers from the Sonora Police Department and California Highway Patrol issued 14 tickets for distracted driving in less than two hours Thursday morning as part of combined effort to crack down on the dangerous practice.

Police Chief Turu VanderWiel said in a statement on Thursday the department will periodically ramp up enforcement for distracted driving to “change the behavior of drivers who choose texting and talking over community safety.”

“Cell phone use while driving is always extremely dangerous, but with many children returning to school, we are focusing additional efforts on distracted driving enforcement,” he said.

Four other drivers received warnings Thursday morning, while many others were provided with educational handouts.

Distracted driving can be any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road, such as talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, drinking, or fiddling with the stereo.

The latest available statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 3,166 people died due to distracted driving in 2017.

Meanwhile, the percentage of drivers using handheld cell phones declined by less than one percent from 2016 to 2017.

VanderWiel stated the goal of the enhanced enforcement efforts is to protect the safety of both citizens and visitors in the city.