Nearly 3,000 drivers were caught breaking cell phone rules during a crackdown in 37 police jurisdictions in and around Sacramento County.
"We are committed to saving lives on area roadways, and drivers should expect to continue to see officers enforcing cell phone driving laws time and time again," said state Office of Traffic Safety director Chris Murphy.
California was one of two states to receive grants for high-visibility law enforcement pilot programs to squelch motorists' hand-held cell phone use and texting. In addition to California, Delaware was selected to mount a pilot project.
The California program, dubbed "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other," was conducted in eight counties with 3.8 million residents in an area ranging from Modesto to Marysville and Vallejo to South Lake Tahoe. The crackdown occurred from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.
The top five police entities in ticket-writing were: the California Highway Patrol (404 tickets), Roseville (292), Sacramento (231), Stockton (195) and Modesto (176).
Some of the offending motorists were obvious in their distracted driving: Vacaville police stopped a motorist whose vehicle was straddling two lanes. She was trying to order concert tickets from her cell phone while driving.
Drivers talking on a cell phone or texting receive a first-time ticket costing a minimum of $159. A second offense costs a minimum of $279.
The crackdown was the first of at least three maximum enforcement periods in the pilot program. The state got $600,000 from the federal government to finance the effort.
The next wave of concerted catching of cell phone scofflaws will occur Feb. 25 through March 10.
The California effort is similar to smaller-scale pilot projects in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., in 2011. After last year's distracted driving pilot programs in the two East Coast cities, texting dropped 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse, according to a state traffic safety press release.
Ticket writing by jurisdiction:
West Sacramento: 123
Elk Grove: 108
Citrus Heights: 64
Yuba City: 45
Suisun City: 35
South Lake Tahoe: 34