Cops trying new ways to spot those texting and driving
Cops are trying new tactics to catch drivers illegally texting and driving at the same time. Sure, some of these tricks are being used to write tickets to drive revenue; but the truth of the matter is that real people are getting killed by these distracted drivers. Last year in the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rico, there were 3,500 deaths attributed to distracted driving, according to the NHTSA. That was up from 3,200 such deaths in 2014.
If we focused on those cases where the distraction was a cellphone, the number of deaths rose 17% from 406 in 2014 to 476 last year. And the real numbers could be higher. Most participants in a distracted driving related smash up are loathe to admit that they were texting instead of paying attention to the road.
In order to find drivers texting while driving, cops are riding atop tractor trailers in order to look down at drivers in other cars on the highway. Last October, a cop disguised himself as a homeless bum and placed himself on the median of a busy two-way highway. The 'bum' helped other officers in his unit write 56 tickets for texting and driving over a two-hour period.
Forty-six states have laws against drivers texting while driving. 14 of those states ban any use of a cellphone while navigating a vehicle on the road, including talking on the phone. Unfortunately, even as the police attempt to figure out ways to catch those driving while texting, the number of those doing it continues to rise. In New York, tickets for texting while driving has risen from 9,000 handed out in 2011 to 85,000 in 2015. In Massachusetts, over the same time period the number of such tickets rose from 1,100 to 6,100. And in California, the number of those found guilty of texting while driving went from under 3,000 in 2009 to 31,000 in 2015.
What makes catching these drivers difficult is that in some states, like Florida, texting while driving is a secondary offense. That means that a cop can't pull someone over for doing it unless the officer spots another infraction going on at the same time, such as speeding. And even though most drivers are aware that using their phone while driving is bad, they do it anyway. Fines for first time offenders range from $175 to $500 making it a rather expensive price for drivers to pay for doing something they know is wrong.