New crackdown to ticket cell phone drivers

You’ve been warned.

Starting Thursday and continuing through Wednesday, June 26, police will be cracking down on drivers who text or use a hand-held cell phone.

You know who they are. Maybe even you. Go ahead, admit it.

If you do, there is a better chance you can get a ticket in the next week.

That’s because of a stepped-up enforcement campaign that’s been named: “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other”

Hey, that could be the name of a country song.

Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, violations involve heavy fines, ranging from $125 for a first offense, $250 for a second violation, and $400 for each subsequent violation.

The crackdown on texting and illegal phone use will commence in four separate, week-long enforcement waves in June and October, 2013, as well as March and July, 2014. The expanded program is made possible by a $275,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.cell

The next round of enforcement waves – in Danbury, Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown and Monroe –is an expansion of an earlier, city-wide pilot project undertaken in the Hartford metro area in 2010. This project was designed to assist communities in enforcing texting bans and to determine what techniques work best.

An analysis of the Hartford high-visibility distracted driving demonstration experience showed a 57 percent drop in handheld cell phone use, while texting dropped by nearly three-fourths.

The study also confirmed that it is more challenging to detect a driver texting behind the wheel than one who is using a hand-held cell phone.

“Distracted driving, especially the use of a cell phone or other electronic device, is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel,” CT Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said in a release. “Roving patrols will be out in force throughout several Connecticut communities during these periods, in an effort to stress Connecticut’s zero tolerance for distracted drivers.”

According to the latest information from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and approximately 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, many of whom were illegally using cell phones and other electronic devices.

According to a separate study by NHTSA, in 2011, 660,000 drivers were using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving during the day at any given daylight moment.

“The law against driving and texting behind the wheel is in force 365 days a year,” added Redeker.

The expansion of the program will provide additional information to other states and national highway safety experts about how effective certain enforcement strategies can be in curtailing illegal cell phone use, including harder-to-detect texting.

So far, 40 states (including Connecticut), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers; 10 states (including Connecticut), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands also ban hand-held cell-phone use by drivers. Connecticut’s anti-cell phone and texting ban became law in 2010.

Jim Shay