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Police Crack Down on Texting Drivers

The Westport Police Department is taking a little extra time today to send drivers a message: Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. As part of the town’s first official distracted driving crackdown, anyone caught on the phone or texting while on the road will end up with their phone in one hand and a ticket in the other.

Capt. Sam Arciola said, “If somebody has to talk on the phone or send a text message, they should pull over and park; get off the highway.”

Connecticut does not allow teens younger than 18 or who have a learner’s permit to talk on a cell phone at all while driving. School bus drivers are also not allowed to talk or text while on the road. Other drivers may use a hands-free headset for calls.

“You are already multitasking just driving your car,” said Westport Deputy Police Chief Dale E. Call in a press release about the increased enforcement. “At the very least you are operating a piece of heavy machinery, navigating across changing streets, calculating speeds and distances, and responding to what other people are doing around you.”

Drivers using a handheld device are four times more likely to have a serious crash according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Almost 20 percent of all crashes in 2008 involved of some form of distraction. Of those, 6,000 people died and another 500,000 more were seriously injured.

Since October 2005, almost 117,000 cell phone and distracted driving citations have been issued in Connecticut by state and local police according to the Connecticut Central Infractions Bureau. According to Arciola, the threat of a ticket hasn’t served as much of a deterrent yet.

“There is someone doing it  in just about every car you see,” said Arciola.

Westport police officers will be on the road today in marked and unmarked cars looking for drivers. Arciola said the enforcement began this morning and will go on all day.

“If you can’t remember the last few blocks, do a reality check,” said Deputy Chief Call. “If the phone rings, pull over. If something falls, leave it there, it’s already down. Let’s all focus more on the tasks involved in the potentially dangerous activity that we call driving.”

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