U Drive. U Text. U Pay: Police begin continue to crack down on distracted driving

Police - Texting campaignToday, the Southington Police Department, along with the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office, began the second wave of their campaign aimed at cracking down on distracted drivers.

The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” intiative is an effort to crackdown on motorists who choose to text, talk or otherwise distract themselves from the task of driving by using a hand-held mobile phone.

According to surveys conducted during last year’s crackdown, there was an 8 percent drop in mobile phone use by drivers at observation locations throughout municipalities where police conducted enforcement. In a press release, police said that the drop in observed use is an encouraging sign.

The campaign will run through Aug. 16 and marks the second time this year that law enforcement agencies will mobilize with special patrols aimed at catching distracted drivers—especially those on their phones.

The last operation, which took place during April 2016, resulted in over 12,000 citations issued state-wide to motorists who chose to ignore Connecticut’s distracted driving laws. Nearly 50 law enforcement agencies, including both state and local police, are again participating in this operation, aimed at keeping Connecticut’s roadways safe.

“We’re making gains”, said Southington Police Chief Jack Daly in a department press release. “Considering the seriousness of this problem and the fact that we saw movement in the right direction is a sign we need to continue to this program.”

The Department of Transportation had announced in April that the results of recent research found an estimated 11.1 million of occurrences of distracted driving happen each day throughout the state of Connecticut. According to the findings, in total, it is estimated that 9.6 percent of drivers were either texting or talking on a hands free device.

“Unfortunately, the fear of a getting a ticket is the only incentive for people to change their behavior,” Daly said in the release. “Everyone thinks they can do it, that a crash won’t happen to them. Sadly, we see it every day. It can and does happen.”

Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, violations involve heavy fines, ranging from $150 for a first offense to $300 for a second violation and $500 for each subsequent violation.

In 2014, police linked distracted driving to 3,179 fatalities, and an estimated additional 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to receive special distracted driving prevention funds to create special patrols to identify, stop and cite drivers who choose to ignore distracted driving laws. Over $6.8 million dollars has been awarded to the state over the last three years to fund campaigns like this one.

“We’re going to keep doing this until people get the message” Chief Daly said in the release.

For more information about national distracted driving issues, visit www.distraction.gov.

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