FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Police across Connecticut will be cracking down on distracted driving over the next two weeks during the next phase of the Department of Transportation's "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." initiative.
The first leg of the campaign, which took place in April, found that there was a 17 percent drop in mobile phone use by drivers at observation locations where police conducted enforcement, according to the DOT.
“While it is encouraging that there was a drop in observed hand-held phone use during the last wave, we still have a long way to go,” said Connecticut DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. “During the last campaign, there were still almost 12,000 citations issued to motorists. We need to continue to be vigilant and continue enforcement.”
The second run of this two-part campaign will go from Wednesday, Aug. 2 through Wednesday, Aug. 16. Law enforcement agencies will add special patrols aimed at catching distracted drivers – especially those on their phones. Over 50 law enforcement agencies, including both state and local police, who were previously involved in the April campaign, are again participating in this operation.
The DOT is conducting ongoing observation studies to measure the effects of targeted enforcement efforts of Distracted Driving laws. Although this program is still an ongoing effort for 2017, the DOT said that early results from the April mobilization reinforce the idea that observed driver behavior changes as a result of targeted enforcement.
Prior to the start of the April campaign, 8.3 percent of drivers were observed with a phone in their hand in areas police planned to conduct enforcement. This number fell to 6.9 percent after the first segment of the enforcement effort had concluded, according to the DOT. Past observation studies have seen similar decreases in observed phone use, which is one of the main reasons law enforcement cite to continue participation in these types of campaigns.
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and an estimated additional 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involved distracted drivers nationally, according to the DOT.
Connecticut receives 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 $6.8 million has been awarded to the state over the last three 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.
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