California Highway Patrol officers throughout Riverside County Thursday will be cracking down on motorists who take their eyes off the road to talk, text or engage in other acts that could cause an accident.

In observance of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, officers from the Blythe, Indio, Riverside, San Gorgonio and Temecula CHP offices will be stepping up efforts to identify inattentive motorists and reinforce the need for safe driving.

“Through a combination of high visibility enforcement efforts, a focused education campaign and cooperation from the motoring public, preliminary data shows the number of inattentive drivers involved in crashes is on the decline,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said. “Ultimately, the goal is to increase voluntary compliance with the law, while keeping people safe on the road.”

CHP data indicated that 66 people died and about 6,500 were injured due to some form of distracted driving in 2017, the latest year statistics were available.

Last year, the agency issued just over 109,000 citations for violations of the state’s hands-free mobile phone use law.

“Cell phones are working against us in the fight against distracted driving,” California Office of Traffic Safety Director Rhonda Craft said. “The hope is that a combination of education and enforcement will drive people to change bad behaviors for the better.”

Distracted and reckless driving among youths remains a serious problem, according to the nonprofit group Impact Teen Drivers.

“Each year, we could fill eight large yellow school buses with the number of teens we lose to preventable car crashes in California alone,” said the organization’s executive director, Dr. Kelly Browning. “The first week of April is also California Teen Safe Driving Week, and it’s a good time to remind everyone that we need to always keep two hands on the wheel, two eyes on the road and, most importantly, keep our mind focused on our driving.”

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