Police in Bristol and Southington will be participating in a statewide effort in April to cut down on distracted driving.
The initiative, “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.,” will kick off on Monday and run through April 30. State police and other municipalities throughout Connecticut will also participate.
“Everyone knows texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, and everyone knows they shouldn’t be doing it - but we see it happen all the time,” said Southington Police Chief Jack Daly. “Beginning April 4, you will see stepped-up law enforcement efforts. Officers will be stopping and ticketing anyone who is caught texting and driving. If you text and drive, you will pay.”
The statewide crackdown was started four years ago and is organized by the Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The campaign usually runs in two stages, one in April and one in August.
According to police, previous campaigns have resulted in the decrease of mobile phone usage while driving.
According to Bristol Police Lt. Richard Guerrera, officers typically use spotters on busy roads during varying times of the day. That officer, upon seeing someone using their cell phone or another mobile device, will radio ahead to another officer in a marked cruiser, who will make the traffic stop and issue a ticket.
Violators can be fined $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for third and subsequent offenses.
According to the NHTSA, 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. That was a 9 percent increase in fatalities compared to the previous year.
Guerrera said the campaign is made possible by grant money, which allows departments to put extra officers out on the streets looking for distracted driving.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.