Distracted driving campaign drops use by 8%

The Trumbull Police Department, along with the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office, announced the continuation of the “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” initiative – 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 before and after April’s crackdown, there was an eight percent drop in mobile phone use by drivers at observation locations throughout municipalities where police conducted enforcement. The drop in observed use is encouraging to law enforcement agencies, and demonstrates the need to reinforce to motorists that mobile phone use while driving is both dangerous and illegal.

The campaign began Aug. 3 and will run through the Sunday, Aug. 16, and marked the second time this year law enforcement agencies will mobilize by adding special patrols – aimed at catching distracted drivers – especially those on their phones.

The last operation, which took place during April 2015, resulted in nearly 16,000 citations issued to motorists who chose to ignore Connecticut’s distracted driving laws. That's four times more citations in one month than any other month over the most recent three-year period (2012-2014) when a specialized enforcement campaign did not occur. Over 50 law enforcement agencies including both state and local police are again participating in this operation – aimed at keeping Connecticut’s roadways safe.

Considering the seriousness of this problem and the fact that there was movement in the right direction is a sign 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% of drivers were either texting or talking on a hands free device.

When considering how long sending or reading a text takes, the amount of time a driver’s eyes are off the road and how many people are engaging in this activity at any given time; it adds perspective to how many crashes happen and lives get impacted by this behavior.

Unfortunately, the fear of a getting a ticket is the only incentive for people to change their behavior. Everyone thinks they can do it, that a crash won’t happen to them. Unfortunately, it is seen every day and it can and does happen.

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

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated additional 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. According to a 2014 special article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.

Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to receive special distracted driving prevention funds – the same funds that allow for special patrols to identify, stop and cite drivers who choose to ignore distracted driving laws. Over $4.6 million dollars has been awarded to the state over the last two years specifically – to fund campaigns like this one. Connecticut qualifies for this federal funding source through a mix of tough laws – and, a proven track record in strong enforcement of distracted driving laws.

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