The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office, today announced the kick-off of “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” – 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.
This mobilization is part of a larger campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – who deems the month of April, national distracted driving awareness month. The Highway Safety Office is using a specialized federal safety grant to provide funding for State and local police to participate in overtime enforcement of Connecticut’s distracted driving laws. Dedicated High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) grants have been awarded to over 50 agencies to identify, stop and cite drivers who engage in hand-held mobile phone use during the month of April.
Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to receive specific distracted driving prevention funds – the same funds that allow for special patrols to ticket drivers who choose to ignore distracted driving laws. Over $4.6 million dollars have 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.
“Our legislators, law enforcement personnel, and agency heads have recognized the danger distracted drivers put our roadway users in – and we passed tough laws and developed strategies to impact those people who choose to ignore the law” said Department of Transportation Commissioner James P Redeker.
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. These fines are even steeper when violations occur in a work zone, as penalties double.
This campaign marks the second time in less than twelve months that State and local police will take part in a mobilization to enforce Connecticut’s tough law that prohibits motorists from texting and/or using hand-held cell phones while driving. The crackdown will span the entire month of April. During a similar three week campaign last September, over 7,000 motorists received citations for using their phone while driving.
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 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.
For more information about national distracted driving issues, visit www.distraction.gov.
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