DANBURY, Conn. – For the next week, police across Fairfield County will be on high alert in the area as Connecticut participates in a federally funded program to stop drivers from texting.
Officers in Danbury, Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel, Brookfield, Monroe and Newtown, alongside the state police, will be coordinating a highly visible campaign to enforce the state’s cellphone and texting laws.
“We are proud that Connecticut is one of two states selected across the country to receive a federal grant of $275,000 for this high visibility enforcement program,” Anna Barry, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said at a news conference Wednesday in Danbury. A similar campaign took place in Hartford in 2010 and decreased texting and driving by 72 percent, Barry said.
Although texting is one of the main focuses of the campaign, officers will be focused on distracted drivers, which includes but is not limited to: eating or drinking, attending to children, talking to passengers, applying makep, using a GPS or using an MP3 player.
The program will focus on using nontraditional methods to stop drivers from texting, said Danbury Police Chief Alan Baker. Baker described nontraditional methods as possibly using spotters on bridges, officers in pickup trucks so they can look down, unmarked police cars as well as checkpoints.
“We might be anywhere, and we will seem to be everywhere,” said Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs.
For State Police Capt. Thomas Garbedian, the message to drivers who text is simple: “It can wait.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,300 people were killed across the country in 2011 due to distracted drivers, many of whom were using their phones at the time of the crash. The age group most likely to be distracted drivers is under 20 years old.
“We just want to remind our residents that we’re not doing this to harass you. We’re doing this because we want safe streets, we want you to be safe and we certainly want those around you to be safe,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
A structured task force will begin July 1 and will be monitoring what does and does not work, said state Rep. David Scribner, R-Danbury. “The laws are only effective when they are obeyed and enforced.”
The campaign will look similar to the national “Click it or Ticket” campaign, in that there won’t be more police on the roads, but they will be more focused on cellphone and distracted driving violations.
“It’s a safety concern, and we’re trying to make the road safer and to bring awareness about distracted drivers,” said Ridgefield Police Capt. Tom Comstock.
In Connecticut, for a first offense for distracted driving will result in a $125 ticket, the second a $250 ticket and any subsequent tickets will cost the operator $400.
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