Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
That statistic underscores why Connecticut State Police and more than 50 local police departments across the state are participating in the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” initiative, for the second time this year. It is an effort to get the attention of motorists who choose to text, talk or otherwise distract themselves from the task of driving by using a hand-held mobile phone. The campaign began August 3 and runs through August 16, (a similar effort was conducted in April) with law enforcement agencies taking aim at distracted drivers—especially those on their phones.
The state Department of Transportation observed a significant drop in hand-held mobile phone use at selected enforcement locations after a similar effort last year. The data demonstrated a decrease in distracted driving from 9.6 percent before April 2015 to 7.8 percent in August 2015, representing a 23 percent drop in phone use at the selected enforcement nationwide.
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, an estimated 3,179 people were killed (10 percent of all crash fatalities) and an additional 431,000 were injured (18 percent of all crash injuries) in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted.
“Crashes due to cell phone usage are preventable. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on steering wheel all of the time that you are driving. That incoming text and outgoing phone call can wait. Nothing is more important than arriving at your destination safely,” said Commissioner Dora B. Schriro of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration points out that studies show that parents have a great influence on teen behavior. “While you may not think you have great influence, that’s it’s all about peer pressure, you’re still the greatest influence on your teen. Talk to your teen and set rules to keep your teens from driving while distracted. Know the facts and share it with them. Engage your teens in a dialogue about the problem.” A national website, www.distraction.gov, has relevant information.
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 distracted driving prevention campaigns.