The Connecticut Highway Safety Office is kicking off its annual Distracted Driving Campaign as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The effort will span through the month of April, kicking off on April 4 and running through April 30. The effort will ramp up again Aug. 3-16.
Law enforcement will be looking for drivers who choose to ignore Connecticut’s mobile phone laws. Last year, Connecticut drivers started to get the message as a result of this crackdown. Law enforcement wrote more than 22,000 citations as part of last year’s effort to get drivers to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.
“We’re seeing measurable progress,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner, Jim Redeker. “We understand that the proliferation of mobile devices means this will be a tough habit for people to break – which is why seeing a drop in use as a response to tough enforcement of Connecticut’s laws will be taken as a sign that we’re on the right path. Enforcement campaigns like these can impact behavior.”
DOT observations conducted before and after last year’s crackdown showed a significant drop in hand held mobile phone use at selected enforcement locations. The observations showed a decrease in distracted driving from 9.6% before April 2015, to 7.8% in August 2015. This represents a 23% drop in phone use at the selected enforcement locations.
“When you think about those numbers, how many people engage in this activity and you pair that with the decrease we saw last year, it shows why we need to continue these types of programs and campaigns,” Redeker said. “We’re not going to see drivers stop using their mobile devices overnight. It takes time to change behavior to make our roads safer but if we can continue to remind people that this activity is dangerous and illegal we can have a real impact on traffic safety,” Redeker continued.
Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, violations involve heavy fines, ranging from $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second violation, and $500 for each subsequent violation.
In 2013, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated additional 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers nationally. According to a 2014 special article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.
Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to receive special distracted driving prevention funds – the same funds that allow for special patrols to identify, stop and cite drivers who choose to ignore distracted driving laws. More than $4.6 million dollars has been awarded to the state over the past few years specifically — to fund campaigns like this one. Connecticut qualifies for this federal funding source through a mix of tough laws — and, a proven track record in strong enforcement of distracted driving laws.
For more information about national distracted driving issues, visit distraction.gov.