Dangers of Distracted Driving

The following was written and submitted by Officer Paul Medvegy of the Fairfield Police Traffic Enforcement Unit

Everyday, while I am patrolling the streets of Fairfield, I become very perplexed by the amount of people who are either talking, texting, checking or sending e-mails, and listening to voice mails on their mobile handheld cell phones while they are operating their vehicles on the public road. These drivers are simply, “Distracted”, which can lead to an increase in vehicular crashes, and violations of traffic laws.

What is Distracted Driving? Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety as a whole. For example, text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from any person. So, how is a driver going to focus 100% of their cognitive attention to the road when they are either texting a friend or engaged in a call by holding their cell phone up to their ear? Studies have shown using a hand held cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. Also, there are many other distractions that limits a person attention to the road while operating a motor vehicle such as eating or drinking, watching a video on an electronic device, and reading a map /newspaper/book.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009, “5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured”.

The State of Connecticut over the past few years has taken a strict approach to combat, “Distracted Driving” by implementing a standard fine that increases at each occurrence. Per Connecticut Motor vehicle Statute 14-296aa, an operator who holds a telephone to or in the immediate proximity of his or her ear while the motor vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaged in a call.

The statute that applies to, “Operation of a Motor Vehicle while using a Hand-Held Telephone or a Mobile Electronic Device is 14-296aa(b). The statute states, “ Any person while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while using a mobile electronic device, operators a motor vehicle on a highway while the vehicle is in motion; or an operator types, sends, or reads a text message while the motor vehicle is in motion”. Also, The Distracted Driving Statute is 14-296aa(i) that states, “ a person engages in an activity unrelated to the operation of a motor vehicle that interferes with the safe operation of the motor vehicle on a highway is in violation of distracted driving”. This particular statute applies to an individual who is being charged with another moving violation in the course of being distracted such as driving through a stop sign while the person was texting. Furthermore, the state of Connecticut has other distracted laws that pertain to a person under the age of 18 years old (14-296aa(d)), for school bus drivers (14-296aa(c)), and for commercial motor vehicle operators (14-296aa(e)).

The 2011-2012 statutes and fines for 14-296aa(b), 14-296aa(c), 14-296aa(i), 14-296aa(d), and 14-296aa(e) are as follow:

1st offense = $150.00, 2nd offense = $250.00, 3rd or subsequent offenses = $400.00

Last year, the US Department of Transportation located in Washington D.C. enacted tougher strict Federal civil penalties on 11/23/11 that bans the use of hand- held cell phones by drivers of buses and interstate large trucks. Drivers who violate the restrictions will face civil Federal penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense, and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for subsequent offenses. Also, Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of up to $11,000.

The Fairfield Traffic Safety Unit is committed to combating, “Distracted Driving” on our roads by educating the community, and enforcing all Connecticut traffic laws. If you have any traffic related questions please feel free to contact the Traffic Department located at the Fairfield Police Department, Ph: 203-254-4850 or view our website (http://fpdct.com/site/).

Written by Ofc. Paul Medvegy, Fairfield Police Traffic Safety Officer (pmedvegy@town.fairfield.ct.us)

3 Responses

  1. SecondhandRose,

    Please be advised that the Fairfield Police Department is committed to making the streets of Fairfield safe for all people who travel on our roads every day, by combating distracted driving as well as all other traffic violations. By achieving this goal, the Fairfield Police Department continually educates the public through public relation articles, community programs, and specialized courses held at the police department. Also, the Patrol Division, while on patrol, are actively enforcing all motor vehicle laws while also responding to other various crimes such as Breach of Peace violations, robberies, larcenies, burglaries, and other investigations. I believe our statistics listed below show that the we are committed to Traffic Safety:

    Total traffic enforcement statistics for 07/01/11 thru 12/31/11 that include all traffic related violations = 7065

    The Traffic Safety Unit (4 officers) statistics for 07/01/11 thru 12/31/11 = 3224

    Lastly, this past November 2011, AAA Motor Club awarded the Fairfield Police Department a Gold Award for its initiatives toward traffic safety for the year 2010.

    SecondhandRose, I hope the information and statistics set forth help answer some of your questions and concerns. Officer Paul Medvegy

  2. Will says:

    Thank you for a very important and timely measure.
    Besides practicing non-distracted driving ourselves, I feel those who realize the dangers should make a point to correct friends and family members who engage in this practice. I won’t stay on the line with someone if I know he/she is driving. I’ll answer any text from someone I suspect is driving with “get back to me when you are off the road.” It’s a small stand, but one worth taking.

  3. SecondhandRose says:

    You know, Officer Perez, it’s all well and good to keep battering the public with articles and commercials and radio spots and so on — but until you and the rest of the police out there on the roads actually start ARRESTING these “Distracted Drivers” for driving with cell phones and other electronic hand-held devices, then your message means absolutely NOTHING.

    You might not like to hear this, but we residents out here in these communities are aware that cops are either not willing to pull these drivers over and get them off the streets, or they just don’t care. Cops focus on the drug busts and stupid things like a tail light being out or an expired emissions sticker, but when it comes to doing something that might actually make a difference to those of us who have to drive the streets next to these idiots, cops DO NOT SUPPORT THE MAJORITY OF DRIVERS WHO WANT THESE OFFENDERS PULLED OFF THE STREETS AND ARRESTED AND FINED.

    Officer Perez, you and your fellow cops talk the talk — but you’re not willing to walk the walk.