Distracted driving in the U.S. is a widespread and dangerous habit, practiced both brazenly and surreptitiously by so many motorists that police are being forced to get creative, but still can’t seem to make much headway.
In Bethesda, Maryland, a police officer disguised himself as a homeless man, stood near a busy intersection and radioed ahead to officers down the road about texting drivers. In two hours, police gave out 56 tickets.
State troopers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have been known to patrol in a tractor-trailer so they can sit up high and spot drivers texting behind the wheel.
In West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, an officer regularly pedals around town on his bicycle, pulls up to drivers at stoplights and hands out $105 tickets.
“It’s everyone, kids, older people — everyone. When I stop someone, they say, ‘You’re right. I know it’s dangerous, but I heard my phone go off and I had to look at it,’ ” said West Bridgewater Officer Matthew Monteiro.
Forty-six states have laws against texting and driving, typically also banning sending or reading email, using apps or engaging in other internet activity.
Fourteen states bar drivers from using hand-held cellphones at all, including talking.
Although more focus has been placed on distracted driving, the problem only seems to be getting worse.
New York Citations Issued:
2011 – 9,000
2015 – 85,000
Massachusetts Citations Issued:
2011 – 1,100
2015 – 6,100
In California, the number of people found guilty of texting while driving climbed from under 3,000 in 2009 to over 31,000 in 2015.
Although these figures seem high, it is important to realize how difficult enforcement is, in part because of the difficulty in proving texting violations in states that allow drivers to talk on hand-held cellphones.
Deterrent campaigns continue to evolve and range from media campaigns educating on the dangers of distracted driving, to the encouragement of defensive driving and even as far as some states increasing the penalties, including Louisiana, which raised its fine for first-time offenders from $175 to up to $500.
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Thanks to: The Berkshire Eagle News